Retail Front

Could Be It This Time for Mercury Brand

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It typically went this way: Someone would speculate Ford was about to end its Mercury brand, then Ford would insist, “Oh no, Mercury has a place within the organization.”

Ford would deny Mercury was fixing to join all the other dearly departed divisions on automotive Boot Hill. There are Oldsmobile and Plymouth pushing daisies after losing gunfights in a marketplace without pity. In fresh plots nearby are Pontiac, Saturn and Hummer.

But that open grave over there. Who’s that for? Could it be…?

For years, Ford would wave off rumors of Mercury’s impending death. Until now.

Word is the auto maker will pull the plug on Mercury soon. Ford CEO Alan Mulally’s response on that possibility hardly gives hope for the brand founded in 1939 by Henry Ford’s son, Edsel.

“As you know, we continue to evaluate all of our models,” Mulally said. “But we have nothing to announce today.” That is auto-company speak for: “Mercury is a goner.”

As late as this January, Ford executives were claiming Mercury had life in it yet, despite reduced sales and a constricted lineup.

“Mercury is a good complement to Ford (brand) cars,” J Mays, Ford group vice president-design, said, citing the Milan as an example.

In late 2009, Mark Fields, Ford’s president-Americas, told Ward’s Mercury remains “important” but in a lesser role.

“It used to be that Mercury was the volume piece of Lincoln-Mercury,” he said. “We’ve decided Lincoln will be that now. Our focus is to winnow down the Mercury lineup.”

To what, zero?

My late father-in-law spent his entire working life at Ford. He loved Mercury cars, particularly his Cougar, which had a personality all its own. That was before Mercury models became rebadged clones of Ford vehicles.

He used to buy his cars at Diamond Lincoln-Mercury, a Royal Oak, MI, dealership that closed 10 years ago. It started out selling DeSotos and Plymouths, before those brands died the death in Detroit. Now, the former dealership sells lawnmowers and snow blowers.

Certain cars gain fame from their roles in movies. There was the DeLorean in “Back to the Future,” the Grand Torino in the film by the same name and the Ford Mustang 390 GT in “Bullitt.”

But the 1949 Mercury Coupe was considered as one of the most famous movie cars in history. That’s because James Dean drove one in the 1955 iconic film, “Rebel Without a Cause.”

Dean died suddenly shortly after making that movie. Now, it looks like Mercury may go, too, after a long, lingering illness.

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Blogs about automotive retailing, commenting on news impacting the business of selling vehicles.

Contributors

Steve Finlay

Steve Finlay is the editor of WardsAuto Dealer Business magazine. His journalism career started 40 years ago as a crime reporter. A Michigan native, he likes fast cars, big lakes and cold days.

Jim Ziegler

Jim Ziegler, president of Ziegler Supersystems, is a trainer, commentator and public speaker on dealership issues.
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