LOS ANGELES – California has a new designation for gold, top Lincoln dealerships here say, and it goes by the letters MKZ.

The redesigned sedan, the first of seven new or fully revamped Lincoln models expected to roll out over the next three years, will firmly reposition Ford’s last remaining luxury brand in the marketplace, predicts Eric Ragland, sales manager for Galpin Lincoln, part of the national sales-leading Galpin Motors group, located in the San Fernando Valley.

“It’s going to get us back into the luxury-midsize market,” Ragland says, adding the MKZ “gives us a chance to really compete with Lexus, BMW, Mercedes like we used to.”

Data from the California New Car Dealers Assn. shows there were an estimated 1.3 million new-vehicle registrations throughout the Golden State in 2011, compared with 1.17 million in 2010.

At least as far back as fiscal-year 2006 Lincoln on average captured 0.5% of all light-vehicle sales in the state, the data shows. Lexus, BMW and Mercedes each claimed 3.9%, while Cadillac, Audi and Acura each hovered at 1%. Infiniti and Buick each controlled 0.8%.

BMW and Mercedes have taken turns leading California’s luxury and near-luxury car segments over the past five years, while Lexus consistently tops the luxury SUV segment.

Lincoln is looking to change with the new MKZ, which is “completely different from anything we’ve had in the midsize (segment),” says Ragland, whose Galpin team sold 466 Lincolns last year. “Instead of kind of jazzing up the Ford version, it’s its own version.”

The overall appearance of the MKZ production model hasn't changed much from that of the concept unveiled at the Detroit auto show in January. With a longer, sleeker profile and roofline, the new model distances itself from the traditional 3-box shape of many sedans, creating a more aerodynamic profile.

Ken Czubay, vice president-marketing, sales and service, says designers are “not only reinventing the sheetmetal and powertrains and all the engineering behind it, “We’re also re-engineering the consumer experience.”

Ed Witt, owner of Witt Lincoln in San Diego, says his dealership has sold an average of 15 MKZ Hybrids since the model was released two years ago. He lays claim to the title of “No.1 MKZ Hybrid dealer in the world.”

“I love the lines,” he says of the new MKZ. “I like the interior. I like the craftsmanship. I love the taillights. I love the exhaust parts. I think everything about the car is truly classy and cool.

“I think the secret sauce is Ford’s proven commitment to saving and reforming the Lincoln moniker,” Witt adds. “Lincoln today and Lincoln two years ago, it’s an entirely different story.”