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4:30 pm
Thu November 14, 2013

Lincoln chief wants brand known for more than big sedans and SUVs

Ford's luxury brand Lincoln took another step this week towards a hoped-for redemption.

The brand unveiled the MKC, a small crossover.

Lincoln's cars are aging and uncompetitive. Jim Farley, who's in charge of Lincoln, cautions the brand's recovery will take a long time, but he hopes the MKC is a turning point.

It's the first small crossover the brand has launched. "We wanted to challenge preconceived notions that Lincoln only makes big sedans and SUVs," says Farley, noting that sales in the small crossover segment have grown 200% since 2009.

The MKC has an unusual clamshell-shaped rear hatch - that could be an answer to critics who say Lincolns are just gussied-up Fords.

"It makes the vehicle look beautiful -- and it's completely different than the Escape," Farley says.

Lincoln is also trying to differentiate itself in customer service.

Farley says the company is making hospitality training available to dealers, has Lincoln representatives available online 24 hours a day, and lets prospective customers take a Lincoln on "date night," before they buy.

Farley says about ten percent of date night customers end up buying a Lincoln.

The MKC also brings back knobs and buttons for many of the controls, rather than relying solely on the company's oft-maligned MyLincolnTouch screen.

The MKC will go on sale next year. For Lincoln dealers, the car can't become available too soon. The brand's sales are last among U.S. luxury brands.