The unveiling of the logo. All photos by Melissa Chipman.

The unveiling of the logo. All photos by Melissa Chipman.

Next time you drive down Fern Valley Road, you might notice a little change at the mighty Louisville Assembly Plant. Yesterday, in addition to announcing the plant’s production of the brand new Lincoln MXC, Plant Manager Darrel Sykes and a bevy of local and government celebs unveiled the new Lincoln logo on the facade of the plant.

The production of this new luxury “small, premium utility” vehicle brings 300 new jobs and a $129 million investment to Louisville and supports 17 suppliers in the commonwealth. Ford is more than 75 percent of the way to its goal of creating 12,000 hourly jobs in the U.S. by 2015.

Small premium utility vehicles make up the fastest-growing segment of the luxury market with more than 600 percent growth since 2008. At the end of the year, they intend to launch the vehicle and the entire Lincoln line in China, which is predicted to be the largest luxury vehicle consumer by 2017.

LAP Plant Manager Daryl Sykes.

LAP Plant Manager Daryl Sykes

Daryl Sykes said that the Louisville Assembly Plant will be the sole producers of the MKC, just as they had been first producers of Rangers, Explorers and Broncos. Right now the plant is seeing its biggest successes ever with the production of the Ford Escape.

Sykes said the Louisville Assembly Plant would now be producing 90 percent Fords and 10 percent Lincolns.

During the unveiling ceremony he attributed the success locally to “the UAW workers and the hard-working management teams here.”

John Savona, director of manufacturing at Ford and former Louisville Assembly Plant manager, likewise gave credit to the hard-working people of the plant, but also the excellent partnership that Ford has with the city and commonwealth.

Lieutenant Gov. Jerry Abramson called today a “great day” and Mayor Greg Fischer praised the plant workers on their “commitment to being the best in the world.” But many of today’s speakers acknowledge the “long journey,” as Fischer called it, experienced by the automotive industry and the Louisville Assembly Plant specifically.

Lt Governor Jerry Abramson.

Lt Governor Jerry Abramson.

UAW Vice President (National Ford Division) Jimmy Settles took the stage and said he expects that Mayor Fischer will be president some day, and he’d be happy to give him his first campaign dollar.

John Jraiche, chief engineer of the project, introduced some of the highlights of the vehicle. The word “authentic” came up repeatedly. Napa leather steering wheel. Two interior accent choices are either sleek aluminum or warm cherry wood.

Every car is app-connected. “My Lincoln Mobile” allows features including:

  • remote start
  • lock/unlock
  • locate vehicle
  • monitor car health

The car can be driven in three different modes, which automatically change the vehicle’s suspension via a series of sensors. Sports mode lets you “feel the road.” Comfort mode makes the suspension extra sensitive. Normal mode is. … normal.

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Lincoln Luxury Validation Center

MKC will introduce the all-new 2.3-liter EcoBoost turbocharged four-cylinder engine producing 285 horsepower and 305 lb.-ft. of torque

The MKC offers many “driver assistance features.” The “lane keeping sensor” automatically notifies you if you seem to be not quite staying inside the lines. If you drift badly enough the steering wheel and the seat will shake.

In addition to having an automatic parallel parking feature, the MKC offers a “park out” feature, which, Jraiche explained, helps you get out of a tight parallel parking spot if the people in front or in back of your vehicle have parked too closely.

I’m a sucker for bells and whistles, so the “vehicle approach” feature tickled me. When you approach your MKC, the key fob sends a signal to light up twinkly lights on the car and to project a Lincoln logo “welcome mat” light on the ground next to the driver’s side door. After the tour, I asked Ford reps to demonstrate the feature on the demo car — but no one could remember where the key was. Another time.

The MKCs come off the same line as the Ford Escapes, but they end up in their own inspection center called the Lincoln Luxury Validation Center, where each vehicle goes through 300 different checks before it comes off the line.

Wendy Ottman and her expensive color meter.

Wendy Ottman and her expensive color meter.

I followed Wendy Ottman around as she did her job as “color valuation specialist.” Ottman uses a $35,000 hand-held machine to perform six pairs of color tests on each vehicle. Pieces of the vehicle like the spoiler and the bumpers are not painted with the rest of the body of the car. Ottman’s job is to make sure each of the added parts exactly match the color of the body of the car. Even a smidge off, and the car goes back to get a piece with a better color fit. Ottman’s inspection of the gold vehicle went off without a hitch. She says she rarely comes across cars that aren’t perfectly matched.

Andrew Frick from Lincoln marketing said 60 percent of the MKC’s, 3,000 of which have been produced since May, have been purchased by new luxury buyers.

Lincoln MKC

Lincoln MKC

Select Lincoln dealers have been offering Lincoln “date night” promotions, which lets potential buyers test drive the car for 48 hours and gives them a $100 gift certificate to a restaurant.

Lincoln marketing goes above and beyond; included in my press kit was a scent swatch for the “Essence of Lincoln,” their award-winning scent created by master perfumer Rene Morgenthaler. It “infused top notes of green tea (to encourage a sense of upscale well-being) with undertones of jasmine and tonka (to create a relaxing atmosphere). Together they form a fragrance that exudes luxury and warmth.”

The MKC was first introduced as a concept vehicle at the 2013 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. The MSRP for the vehicle is $42,900. Lincolns are available locally at Oxmoor Ford Lincoln and Bill Collins Lincoln.