Ford to make Lincoln MKC at Louisville Assembly Plant

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Ford's Louisville Assembly Plant on Fern Valley Road will add production of a new vehicle, the Lincoln MKC, next year.

The 2015 MKC, Lincoln's first entry into the compact utility vehicle market, will be made alongside the Escape SUV beginning in the second quarter of 2014. LAP plant manager Daryl Sykes told workers about the new line on Wednesday.

The MKC is Lincoln's attempt to tap the "compact luxury crossover" market, said senior editor Bill Visnic, who attended Lincoln's unveiling of the new model in New York on Wednesday.

"What you're talking about, in effect, is a luxury version of the Escape," Visnic said.

While the MKC will be a bit wider than the Escape, both vehicles will be built on Ford's C Platform, the type of production line currently installed at LAP, Visnic said.

A union representative said 100 workers could be added for the MKC, but Ford has so many applicants from previous hiring that the company won't be soliciting new candidates.  The plant currently employs 4,400 workers producing the Escape on three shifts.

The MKC will start at a manufacturer-suggested retail price of $33,995, according to Lincoln's website. The Escape starts at $22,700.

It won't cost much more to build an MKC than it does an Escape, so the higher price means higher per-vehicle profits, Visnic said. He noted Lincoln already makes a luxury version of the Ford Explorer -- the MKX.

With add-ons, some MKCs could sell for $45,000, Visnic said.

"That's where you really get your margins, on vehicles like this," he said.

The MKC is Lincoln's entry into a market that has been led so far by German automakers BMW (the X3) and Audi (the Q5), Visnic said.

The vehicle offers some utility -- it can come with four-wheel drive -- but with better fuel efficiency than a bigger SUV, he said.

Lincoln touts the MKC's available 2.3-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder engine, which "offers projected best-in-class horsepower per liter and best-in-class torque per liter." senior analyst Jesse Toprak said the MKC is an attempt to attract new customers into the Lincoln brand, which is an "uphill battle."

"It's still perceived as the old guy's car, and the average age of a Lincoln buyer is the oldest in the industry."

Image is the main motivation of luxury car buyers, and it's going to be difficult for Lincoln to win over BMW customers in Los Angeles, he said.

Lincoln's new model will be trying to fit into a growing segment that includes the BMW X3, Audi Q5, Mercedes M Class and Buick Encore, he said.

"The challenge is how to stand out," he said.

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