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Ford Preparing To Ax Mercury

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On: Thu, May 27, 2010 at 5:07PM | By: John Welch

Ford Preparing To Ax Mercury

The American Car Company graveyard might get a little larger soon; it looks like Ford is getting ready to give Mercury the "'Ole Yeller" soon. Allan Mullaly made it clear when he took the reigns at Ford, that he would emphasize one premier brand, Ford, and would eventually wind down extraneous brands Lincoln and Mercury. According to sources, the automaker's top executives are preparing a proposal to kill Mercury to be presented to directors in July. Mercury is already losing two of its models next year, leaving it with a serious product drought.

The plan hinges on Ford's ability to convince Lincoln/Mercury dealers to close or consolidate with existing Ford dealerships, a negotiation that could get rocky. No dealer wants to give up his franchise. Unfortunately for them, this plan falls right in line with Ford's other cost cutting measures, namely the elimination of small-niche European brands like Volvo and Jaguar. With the Euro-pudge trimmed, Mullaly is now turning his attention to Ford's North American fat.

"Mercury is a forgotten brand," said John Wolkonowicz, an auto analyst with IHS Global Insight. "Many Americans probably already think it has been discontinued. Mercury was too similar to Ford from the very beginning." Uh-Greed! "The reason Mercury failed throughout its existence is because Ford never wanted to spend any money on it,” Wolkonowicz said. “Ford always wanted to do it on the cheap and the results were what you'd expect.” Eh, Mercury hasn't always been a failure necessarily, just not a "winner," per say.

“The Grand Marquis has the oldest buyer demographics in the industry with an average age of 70,” Wolkonowicz said. “There are still members of the Depression generation who will miss Mercury.” Welp, can't really argue with that. Mercury's cultural heyday came in the 1950s, when hot-rodders favored its engines, which were larger and faster than those found in Ford models, Wolkonowicz said. Along with Lincoln, Mercury sponsored “The Ed Sullivan Show” on CBS in the 1950s and 1960s. Detective Steve McGarrett drove a black Grand Marquis in the “Hawaii Five-0” TV series on CBS in the 1970s.

As Mercury's sales plunged, so too have its profits, Wolkonowicz said. With one-quarter of the sales it had a decade ago, it's hard to rationalize the line's continued existence, he said. “I'm not surprised to see Mercury go because they don't sell enough of them,” Wolkonowicz said. “It's been a case of benign neglect for years.”

There is an upside to all of this, as well. One benefit to being "to similar to Fords" is that Mercurys are cheap and easy to repair. Aside from headlights, they are identical to their Ford cousins. Another benefit: used Mercurys will still have a parts supply, being Fords and all, and there are sure to be some serious deals found on out-going 2010 Mercurys. The Milan is a tarted-up Fusion, and for the right money, an excellent buy! Those ancient Grand Marquis are still being sold because they are bullet-proof cars. The Mercury Mariner is far classier than the Ford Escape it is based on, and is available with the same hybrid technology.

Keep you eyes peeled for deals on Mercurys; they will be out there!

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