Ford Motor Co. will show a midsize Lincoln sedan built off the Mazda6 platform at the New York auto show in April.

The Lincoln debut comes before the highly publicized Mazda6-based ’06 Ford Futura, and the car will appear on a New York auto show docket that includes a production-ready Escape Hybrid and Mustang racing concept dubbed the GTR-40.

A Ford spokesman bills the Lincoln as a “production teaser,” and says the car unveiled in New York will be close in design to the actual production model, save for certain elements of the interior.

Ford will begin rolling out its Mazda6-based vehicles in April.

The luxury vehicle – scheduled to bow in the ’06 model year, likely with all-wheel drive as an option – will be the first of 10 Ford, Lincoln and Mercury vehicles Ford will spin off the Mazda6 platform. Those include a ’06 hybrid sedan, presumed to be a version of the Ford Futura and possibly Lincoln and Ford cross/utility vehicles. (See related story: Better Idea? Ford Says This Time It Has Product Development Right)

The forthcoming Lincoln – the brand’s first new car since the LS sedan debuted in 1999 – comes as Ford’s U.S. luxury division car sales appear headed toward a fourth consecutive decline in 2004. Last year, Lincoln car sales slipped below 100,000 units, and through February the division is on pace to sell about 75,000 this year – a long way from the 155,086 sold during 2000, the LS’s first full year on the market.

Unlike the LS, which shares its underpinnings with the Jaguar S-Type and the now-defunct Ford Thunderbird, the new Lincoln taps into the lower cost, mass market architecture of the Mazda6.

Ford is aiming to differentiate its three domestic brands by tweaking such things as “interior functionality” and “surface treatments,” according to comments made by Paul Mascarenas, executive director-medium, large, front-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive platforms, in the March edition of Ford’s internal publication, Ford World.

“Our strategy is to put the money where it counts – on the visual parts and key touch zones,” Mascarenas says.

“We also have a very clear strategy to differentiate across our three brands. To make the interiors affordable, we are driving commonality in areas the customers do not see – seat frames, instrument panel structures, switch hardware and so on.”

jstoll@primediabusiness.com