An article from Bloomberg today reports that plans are underway to wind down sales of Mercury automobiles in the United States (Ford pulled Mercury out of Canada in 1999). For the past few years, the question has not so much been “Will Mercury live on?” than “When will Mercury be put out of its misery?” Since current Ford CEO Alan Mulally joined the company in 2006, rumors have swirled that killing off Mercury was a part of his agenda, but faced opposition from the Ford family.
The writing is on the wall, and apparently the Ford family are beginning to accept the reality of Mercury, a brand created by Edsel Ford in 1939 as a premium brand above Ford, but positioned below Lincoln. Sales of Mercury cars and trucks have fallen 74% since 2000. Mercury only sells four models in 2o10, as the Mercury Sable, sister to the Ford Taurus, was discontinued after 2009. The future looks more ominous when you consider after 2010, Mercury loses two more models. The full-size Grand Marquis will be discontinued, as will the Mercury Mountaineer. The Mountaineer is sister to the Ford Explorer, which will be all new for 2011-and looks to be going solo.
Mercury has at least tried to generate some positive vibes over the last decade. The modern muscle car pictured above, the Marauder, got plenty of buzz from the automotive press, but few sales. Likewise with the last version of the Cougar, a 2+2 sport coupe. In the mid-2000’s, Mercury hired Jill Wagner as spokesperson in hopes of targeting woman buyers, but with apparently little success. Since Mulally took over as CEO, Mercury has languished without a unique car of its own, or any meaningful identity or definition of who they are as a brand. If Mulally’s intent was to kill Mercury by neglect, it has worked.
Sadly, Mercury will most likely go down in history as forgettable brand, its zenith reached before many current car buyers were born. Cars like the Cougar XR-7 are distant memories. Ford appears to have spent as little money as possible on Mercury over the past decade, and the plunging sales come as little surprise. From a public relations point of view, the automotive press has been engaged in a strange dance with Ford. Asked repeatedly about the future of the brand, Ford continued to refuse Mercury was going anywhere, yet offered no plan or direction to keep it viable. The charade, it appears, is finally nearing its end.