It's time for Lincoln to stand and deliver.

Ford sold off a stable of European luxury nameplates -- Aston Martin and Jaguar, Land Rover and Volvo -- to clear the field for its revamped luxury brand, which it rechristened Lincoln Motor Co. in December.

But the eye-catching and advanced 2013 Lincoln MKZ -- meant to spearhead the brand's rebirth -- had a painfully slow production launch last fall with some parts arriving late from suppliers and also delays related to producing the MKZ and the Fusion on the same line at Ford's Hermosillo, Mexico, plant.

The many-months delay in delivering vehicles frustrated buyers and left thousands of unfinished MKZs, waiting for parts and final inspections, parked at factories in Mexico and Michigan. The snafus also cost Ford momentum it had built for the relaunch from splashy and expensive Super Bowl ads.

But the flagship car is finally reaching dealers this month in meaningful numbers. About 10,000 are now in stock at showrooms around the country.

With production kinks out of the way, Ford should know over the next six weeks whether the early missteps have permanently damaged the new brand and whether its bold attempt to reinvent Lincoln as a global luxury player is the start of something big or a very expensive and embarrassing lesson.

"April's going to be very interesting," Lincoln boss and Ford global chief of marketing, sales and service Jim Farley said. "People like the car, and it's bringing in new customers."

Ford is investing hundreds of millions of dollars to upgrade Lincoln's model line. Dealers around the country are spending millions more to compete with the opulent facilities where Lexus and Mercedes-Benz pamper their customers. The MKZ must start the brand on a journey upscale to justify those expenses and Lincoln's very existence.

In addition to striking looks, the MKZ features a hybrid model that scored an attention-grabbing 45 m.p.g. EPA rating, which could be a strong selling point for the model going forward.

"There's promise and potential. The question is whether Lincoln can execute" with its vehicles, marketing and a buying experience that rivals other luxury brands, said analyst Rebecca Lindland of Rebel Three Media.

Ford is counting on Lincoln to attract affluent customers, generate deluxe profit margins and pioneer new technologies. The MKZ's stumbling launch diverted attention from the sleek sedan to Ford's ability to compete with global luxury leaders.

"It's better to under-promise and over-deliver," said a Lincoln dealership executive who did not want to be identified for fear of irritating Ford officials. "That's the No. 1 lesson of the MKZ. You should have thousands of cars at the dealerships before you start advertising."

Keeping buyers waiting

The plentiful supply of MKZs can't come soon enough for buyers who've been waiting for months.

"I love the car now that I've received it, but I hated the wait," said Tanner Smith, a 49-year-old information security director from Phoenix. Smith ordered his MKZ Oct. 22. It arrived about four and a half months later on March 11.

Smith says the worst part of the wait was a lack of information from Lincoln about why his car had been delayed and when it would be delivered.

That's one of the biggest lessons Farley says Ford has taken away from the faulty re-launch so far. Lincoln says it now aims to get dealers and customers more accurate information on future vehicles, he said.

"Our dealer council is asking us to improve. They say, 'Just tell us what's going on.' We have learned a lot about how to prepare for the second new product" from Lincoln's relaunch, a small crossover expected to arrive in 2014, Farley said.

Susan Moiseev ordered her MKZ hybrid in late August. Star Lincoln in Southfield delivered it to the recently retired Oakland County judge about six months later on March 1. But the dealership handled the delay well, Moiseev said, and she's ecstatic with her new MKZ hybrid.

"Star forwarded me e-mails saying that cars were being delayed for inspections to make sure everything was right," she said. "I know that was true, because when my car arrived, it had 'OK' written on the back window. I got the first or second MKZ hybrid in Michigan. I ordered it sight unseen. I went to the (Detroit) auto show in January so I could see what my car looked like. It was worth the wait."