DETROIT – Lincoln officials say the brand’s new display stand debuting next week at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit reflects the future direction of the marque as it reinvents itself as a credible player in the luxury segment.

“We kicked off the (stand) project wanting a completely new customer experience to expand our customer base,” Joe O’Connor, Lincoln auto show booth manager, tells WardsAuto at a media preview here. “It’s all about design, premium materials and technology, which is the vision for the brand going forward.”

Lincoln is aiming to attract buyers closer to 40 years old, rather than the current average age of 57-60, says spokesman Sam Locricchio. “We want to get a younger, progressive-luxury customer who isn’t married to traditional nameplates. They are early adopters and mentally willing to experiment.”

Such buyers represent about 23% of the market, he says. Some are customers who previously owned Ford products and want to move upscale as their financial status improves, while others are new to the auto maker.

The new show stand was designed with input from key divisions within Lincoln, including design and engineering teams.

At nearly 18,000-sq.-ft. (1,672 sq.-m), the stand is about 50% bigger than last year’s display. It is set apart from the neighboring Ford Blue Oval display by a large latticework, pass-through incorporating the Lincoln logo.

The Lincoln stand features art works by Detroit-area artists, as well as Chuck Hoberman, whose colorful spheres have been featured at the Winter Olympics and toured with the rock band U2.

The display also borrows cues from high-end retailers, considered key to attracting younger customers that Lincoln covets. They include doormen to welcome show-goers and up to 50 product specialists to answer questions, as well as little touches including leather couches and sandstone flooring.

A high-end sound booth features an audio system that is THX-certified. The sound gallery will be used to demonstrate Lincoln vehicles’ sound systems, as well as the voice-activation capabilities of the MyLincoln Touch infotainment system.

The stand also includes a performance gallery featuring a light-emitting-diodes floor programmed to simulate road conditions. It will be used to highlight the brand’s technologies, including Lincoln Drive Control that allows drivers to personalize suspension settings.

O’Connor says the new stand is meant to convey the reinvention of the Lincoln brand, which saw sales dip 0.2% in 2011 to 85,643 units, WardsAuto data shows.

However, without the product to back up the lavish display, it will mean nothing, he says. Ford has said it plans to bring out seven new Lincoln models over the next four years.

The star of the Lincoln stand at this year’s NAIAS will be a concept sedan that offers a glimpse of the brand’s future styling direction crafted by new head designer Max Wolff.

“The key is the vehicle, of course, and most importantly (the stand) will be to showcase the MKZ concept,” Wolff says. “We want (visitors) to walk away with a completely new image of Lincoln and know that things are really changing.”

bpope@wardsauto.com