Ford Motor Co.'s new Ford Edge and its Lincoln MKX sibling are making inroads into the lucrative midsize cross/utility vehicle segment, the auto maker says.

In its second full month on the market, the Edge already has captured 12.5% of the medium CUV sector, surpassing the gasoline-version of the Toyota Highlander (11.7%), Ford says.

Dealers delivered 7,977 Edges in February, putting it ahead of the 7,476 Highlanders sold with the standard powertrain, but behind total Highlander sales when 1,892 hybrid versions are added.

The Honda Pilot is the segment leader through February, with 19,742 units delivered, according to Ward's data, well ahead of the Edge's 2-month total of 13,563. The Nissan Murano, which Ford cites as the primary competitor, also remains ahead of the Edge, with 14,595 units sold through February.

Although the Edge still has ground to cover if it is to become a top player in the segment, Ford is pleased with its performance so far.

“To be in the same company with great nameplates – Highlander, Pilot and Murano – in its second month on sale is encouraging,” says George Pipas, Ford's top U.S. sales analyst. “The most important thing is not that (Edge sales are) higher or lower, it's that we're in the same ballpark as some well-established and awesome products.

“That's what we aspire to be in every category.”

While not revealing Ford's sales target for March, he does say it's a “five figure” number.

“For March we've set our sights on higher Edge sales, partly because it's getting into its third month and availability is increasing as we go along – and hopefully so is awareness,” Pipas tells Ward's, adding the midsize CUV segment is the fastest-growing in the industry.

The Lincoln MKX, while not a high-volume product like Edge, also is performing well, outselling the Cadillac SRX by 17% in the year's first two months. Through February, Lincoln sold 4,009 MKXs, while Cadillac moved 3,432 SRX units, up 13.9% from like-2006, according to Ward's data.

In the overall Luxury Middle CUV segment, however, the MKX trails many of the more established marques, such as the Lexus RX 330/350, which through February totals 8,621 units.

Pipas says the success of the MKX is indicative of an overall trend at Lincoln.

“There is something that's going on at Lincoln that's obviously related to product, or a growing awareness of the brand, but Lincoln was the only Ford brand last year to have a retail sales increase,” he says of Lincoln's 4% uptick in 2006.

Meanwhile, Pipas says Ford is keeping an eye on faltering Mustang sales but isn't too concerned.

Mustang deliveries are down 19.3% through February, but the model still ranks No.14 on the best-selling cars list and controls 52% of its segment.

Pipas says a slowdown is to be expected, given the current Mustang is entering its third production year.

“This is a typical sales curve, particularly in this segment, because it's so style conscious and the next generation of product design is much anticipated,” he says. “Usually you get a sharp run-up the first year, and the next two or three calendar years sales slide.”

bpope@wardsauto.com