New Compact Crossovers Taking Center Stage at Detroit Auto Show

The upcoming North American International Auto Show, a.k.a. the Detroit Auto Show, will serve as the launchpad for a number of compact crossover concept vehicles when it opens on January 14.

Japan’s No. 2 automaker, Honda, will launch its Urban SUV Concept model, which is reportedly based on its Fit subcompact model.  The much-anticipated Lincoln MKC will also make its public debut at the show. The MKC will be a luxury market compact SUV built on the Ford Escape platform.

With gasoline prices slowly but steadily inching upward, it’s not just SUVs that are being downsized. Automakers are responding to the demand for smaller, more fuel efficient vehicles. Ford COO Mark Fields says B- and C- segment vehicles now make up 20 percent of the U.S. market, compared with only 13 percent in 2005, and he expects the demand to increase at an even faster pace in the coming years.

The demand for compact crossover vehicles (CCVs) and subcompact crossover vehicles has created something of a gold rush mentality among automakers looking to capture their share of the mainstream and luxury markets.

Honda has characterized its Urban SUV concept model as “a global concept model combining a sporty and dynamic SUV profile with a spacious, functional interior.” Most industry insiders expect the production model to be nearly identical to the concept version, and speculation is that the new model will be built alongside the Fit subcompact at Honda’s new production plant in Mexico.

Honda hopes the addition of the new Urban SUV to its model lineup will help it meet its goal of increasing its annual U.S. sales by 20 percent, to 2 million units, by 2016.

Ford Motor Company’s Lincoln division has generated a lot of buzz by announcing that it will debut its MKC luxury compact crossover at the Auto Show. The new model is expected to feature many of the same design elements, including the new horizontal grille, as the 2013 MKZ. It will also likely be available with a variety of engines, including the Ford 2.0-liter EcoBoost, and possibly a turbocharged 1.5-liter EcoBoost engine.

Including the MKC, Lincoln plans to introduce four new models by 2014. The other models include a replacement for the full-sized Navigator SUV, and updated versions of the MKZ and MKS models.

The success of the MKC is seen as crucial to Lincoln’s future. During the first 11 months, Lincoln’s sales fell 3% while industry-wide U.S. sales rose 15%.

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