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2006 Detroit Auto Show, Part VI

2006 MINI Traveller Detroit concept

2006 MINI Traveller Detroit concept


2006 Detroit Auto Show Index by TCC Team (1/7/2006)


Lincoln Sports New Face, New Outlook


2006 Lincoln MKS Concept

2006 Lincoln MKS Concept

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The perennial question – what is Lincoln? – may finally be answered by two concepts unveiled at this year’s North American International Auto Show. The MKS show car intends to show where the troubled luxury brand will go with a new flagship sedan expected to market for 2008. Somewhat up-market from today’s LS, the MKS aims for the middle of today’s luxury segment, where products like the BMW 5-Series now dominate. The sporty sweep of the roof line sharply contrasts the current LS. The interior is filled with electronic goodies, including a 14-speaker audio system and Bluetooth hands-free phone technology. The suede dash is accented by a “ribbon of maple,” noted Ford Motor Co.’s North American design director, Peter Horbury. Under the hood, the MKS features a 315-hp V-8 mated to a six-speed automatic and an all-wheel-drive powertrain.


The MKS is one of “two examples of how we’re sharpening and redefining the Lincolnbrand,” explained Horbury. The other new model, unveiled at CoboCenteron Monday, is the MKX, a nearly production-ready crossover vehicle due to market late this year. Spacious and sleek, with an optional panoramic sunroof, the MKX is arguably the first American entry into this expanding luxury crossover segment. Features include heated and cooled front seats and optional heated rear seats, adaptive headlights, and roll stability control, a technology borrowed from Ford’s Volvo brand. The all-wheel-drive powertrain is driven by a 250-hp 3.5-liter V-6.


2007 Lincoln MKX

2007 Lincoln MKX

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The MKX crossover is designed to refocus a brand whose image has become quite blurred in recent years, as its sales slump in the face of a withering import assault. Exactly who Lincoln intends to target – and how – was the question repeatedly posed to Ford Executive Vice President Anne Stevens, following the reveal of the MKX. The brand intends to be “luxurious, not ostentatious, comfortable but not gauche,” she suggested. And it will target “American buyers…who are living the American dream…and want an American car,” she added, repeating the patriotic theme hammered home during the Lincoln news conference. The irony? The new MKX will be assembled at Ford’s newly-upgraded assembly plant in OakvilleCanada.

Preview: 2007 Lincoln MKX (1/9/2006)
Ford Motor's luxury brand joins the hot crossover segment

Lincoln MKS: Becoming LS? by Bengt Halvorson (1/9/2006)
All-wheel-drive concept prefaces new division flagship.




How Much Upside at Chrysler?


The only American automaker to post a sales gain in 2005, DaimlerChrysler’s Chrysler Group is looking for ways to grow. While there are some weak spots in the lineup, the company is nonetheless on a roll, analysts generally agree, as it enters 2006. Most of its factories are operating at or near normal capacity, so CEO Tom LaSorda is looking for ways to squeeze even more out of those plants, rather than adding facilities in a market with severe over-capacity issues. His goal? Add third shifts wherever possible and move increasingly to flexible facilities that can allow Chrysler to shift production to respond to swings in market demand. Adding that capacity “is free,” he said, at least if you don’t count the added workforce. Going to third shift operations could boost output to as much as 3.5 to 4.0 million, LaSorda said. The automaker isn’t likely to need that much any time soon, however. Sales last year just nudged the 3.0 million mark.


But added capacity will certainly be needed at a few key plants, such as the one in Brampton , Ont., building Chrysler’s rear-drive LX models. The 300 series is sold out and the biggest challenge for Challenger would be finding space on the line. The retro muscle car debuts in Detroit this week, and LaSorda said his team will be watching closely to see how strong the media and public react. But there’s no question that the automaker is strongly interested in finding a place in the line-up for Challenger. It’s far less likely to add the big Imperial, which was revealed on Sunday. The stretched version of the 300 was “nothing but a concept,” LaSorda stressed.

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