In January, luxury car sales in the United States were up, and generally by a large margin over prior year. Cadillac delivered 47 percent more cars than it did in 2012, while Porsche delivered a 32 percent gain.

Lexus was up by nearly 27 percent, followed by Acura (13.2 percent), Mercedes-Benz (10.7 percent), Volvo (9.3 percent), Audi (7.5 percent) and Infiniti (4.9 percent). And then there’s Lincoln, which saw an 18.2 percent decline in sales, largely due to its lack of product.

The midsize MKZ sedan is intended to be the brand’s standard-bearer in 2013, but the car is late to market. Lincoln spent big money to show it off during Super Bowl XLVII, but  most dealers don’t have inventory to sell and may not have normal inventory of the MKZ until April. That’s a long time to keep prospective customers waiting.   

To expedite the delivery process, Automotive News (subscription required) reports that Ford is shipping completed Lincoln MKZs from its assembly plant in Hermosillo, Mexico to Flat Rock, Michigan for final quality inspection.

While this step is normally completed in Mexico, the additional production volume that Lincoln is currently building requires the addition of a second inspection line. Five weeks  worth of production, stretching from January 28 through February 25, will be shipped to Flat Rock for final inspection.

Once checked and approved, Ford will truck the MKZ inventory to Lincoln dealers instead of shipping by rail, to further expedite the process. We have to imagine that shipping cars from Hermosillo to Flat Rock, and then expediting them to dealers by motor carrier, will add significant production cost to the MKZ, negatively affecting margins.

We’ll admit that our first thoughts centered on a potential quality issue with the assembly line in Mexico, but Lincoln’s sales and service manager, Kevin Cour, insists that’s not the case.

“We have not had any substantial quality issues,” Cour said, “We are absolutely laser-focused on getting the fit and finish right.”

Building cars that exceed customer’s expectations for fit and finish is critical to the success of any luxury brand, particularly one looking to reestablish itself in the market. On the other hand, not having cars to sell is the quickest way we can think of to lose market share.

Can Lincoln deliver high-quality cars quickly enough to meet demand? We’ll find out from the sales numbers reported over the next few months.