Better brand management is the rationale behind DaimlerChrysler Corp.'s decision to lower the curtain on the Dodge and Plymouth nameplates in Canada and Ford Motor Co.'s move to scale back the visibility of its Mercury badge there.

Ford says it will reduce emphasis on its Mercury brand in Canada beginning Oct. 1. While the Mercury name won't vanish entirely, the automaker says it will appear on only two models in Canada, the Grand Marquis and Cougar for the '00 model year.

Canada's 124 Lincoln Mercury showrooms will begin operating as Ford dealerships in the fall, the automaker says, with a core product lineup including all '00 model Ford-branded vehicles, the all-new Ford Focus and the remaining Mercury Grand Marquis and Cougar. The dealerships will no longer offer the Mercury Sable and Mystique or Ford Contour and Contour SVT after the '99 model year.

The new dealership system also will include specialty franchises for Lincoln luxury vehicles, SVT models and Fast Lane and Quality Certified Pre-Owned Vehicles.

“Everyone recognizes the blue oval,” says a spokesman for Ford Motor Co. of Canada Ltd. “The challenge will come in reminding them that the Mercury brand is still around.”

The commonality of brands has been confusing to Ford's Canadian customers, the spokesman says. “The Mercury Sable and Ford Taurus are the best example of that.”

Currently, the Canadian system permits Mercury dealers to sell Ford products through their franchises, while in the U.S. the brands are sold in separate stores. “If a consumer walks into a Mercury dealership here, there is about an 80%-85% chance that they'll come out with a Ford brand product,” the spokesman says.

The probability of downplaying Mercury in the U.S. is unlikely, he says, because the distribution system is completely different. “There is not the same brand confusion,” he adds.

In a similar action, Chrysler of Canada Ltd., DCC's subsidiary in Windsor, announced recently it is revising its product lineup in Canada by eliminating the Plymouth brand and halting the sale of Dodge cars.

Beginning with the Neon, which will be sold as a Chrysler, the move will eliminate the Plymouth Voyager minivan and Plymouth Breeze, the Dodge Stratus and the Dodge Avenger. The Chrysler Cirrus LX will replace the Breeze and Stratus, the automaker says.