NEW YORK – Ford introduces its redesigned ’13 MKZ, a midsize sedan given the big assignment of leading the lagging division’s revival.

“We’re reinventing a true luxury brand with exceptional product and a highly personalized ownership experience,” Mark Fields, Ford president-the Americas, says at the MKZ’s debut at the auto show here.

“Lincoln has a 90-year wonderful heritage, and I define heritage as history with a future.”

The auto maker plans to introduce seven all-new or significantly refreshed Lincolns during the next three years in an attempt to regain market share lost over two decades. The brand sold 71,000 vehicles in 2011. Its peak year was 1990 with 231,660 deliveries, according to WardsAuto data.

The MKZ competes in the midsize premium-sedan segment, which is crowded but expected to grow 21% by 2015. “It is a big segment, and one to which many luxury buyers come for the first time,” making it important for an auto maker to make a good first impression, Fields says.

Stylistically, the vehicle is nearly identical to the concept car shown in January at the Detroit auto show.

“The overall design is open, flowing and sculptural,” says Max Wolff, Lincoln’s design director. It is the first vehicle created by a dedicated team in a new Lincoln design studio.

Product is primary, but providing a satisfying ownership experience counts, too, says Jim Farley, Ford group vice president-global marketing, sales and service.

New consumer-friendly initiatives include a 24/7 online service in which Lincoln consultants offer video face-to-face help to online shoppers. “It will make us different in the marketplace,” Farley says.

The ’13 Lincoln MKZ offers three powertrain selections. Standard is a 2.L 4-cyl. EcoBoost engine. An optional 3.7L V-6 produces 37 hp more than its predecessor, yet improves fuel economy by about 5%. Also optional is a 2.0L, 4-cyl. hybrid engine.

Other vehicle features include what is touted as one of the world’s widest-opening retractable glass roofs; Lincoln Drive Control, billed as offering a refined ride and engaging driving dynamics; and an interior with Active Noise Control, wood trim and full liquid-crystal-display instrumentation.

sfinlay@wardsauto.com