Mercury blues

If you’re gonna buy you a Mercury and cruise on down the road, you might want to do it now, while there’s still time:

The writing’s on the wall for Ford’s pseudo luxury brand Mercury, which is now tipped to face extinction within the next couple of years. Flagging sales and no major new products in the pipeline mean Ford execs are likely to close the book on Mercury for good, and it could happen as early as 2012. Both industry experts and Mercury’s own dealers are predicting the brand won’t be around much longer. In fact, a recent survey of 125 dealers found that nearly four out of every five dealers were concerned that Ford is planning to dump Mercury.

How many new Mercs are in the pipeline? One: when the Ford Focus (probably still first-generation, while the EuroFocus is approaching the time for its third) gets a hybrid powerplant, there’s supposed to be one for Jill Wagner to hawk.

This is somewhat distressing, not because I’m a Mercury fan — I owned one, once upon a time, and it was an okay car when it wasn’t chewing on its own cylinder heads — but because I was sort of hoping that recasting the line as “chick cars” might bring some new owners into the fold. Apparently it didn’t work: maybe women won’t buy “chick cars” either.

But the death of the Big M is probably inevitable. GM and Chrysler have axed entire marques — Oldsmobile and Plymouth, respectively — for selling fewer than 300,000 units a year. Mercury is running around 180,000. All these years we’ve been told that Mercury was keeping Lincoln dealers afloat, but maybe Lincoln would do better as a standalone: flying solo certainly hasn’t hurt Cadillac, and I have to wonder how many MKZ sales Lincoln loses to Mercury’s much-the-same Milan selling for five grand less across the lot.





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