Does Mercury Have a Future?
At last week’s National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) convention, Lincoln-Mercury dealers were looking for news about the fate of the Mercury brand. Ford has previously said that Lincoln will become the volume brand of the Lincoln-Mercury franchise, leaving dealers concerned that Lincoln will not be able to make up Mercury’s volume on its own. Ford has also conceded that Mercury, for the foreseeable future, will (in as many words) continue as Fords with waterfall grilles and slightly upgraded interior materials.
While Ford has several new products confirmed to be in the pipeline – a new Taurus, Mustang, Flex crossover, Verve subcompact, and more – there have been no product announcements about future Mercury products. Even some future Lincoln products have been strongly hinted at in recent months – the MKS sedan is coming out later this year, and the MKT concept that debuted last month in Detroit will probably reach production in coming years. So what are Mercury’s new products? A hybrid version of the Milan midsize sedan, and powertrain upgrades to the Mariner crossover.
So, where have we seen a similar lack of new product news, and what was the result? Oh yes, Isuzu. Remember what happened to Isuzu? It’s leaving the US light duty market in January 2009. Another parallel with the Isuzu situation is that Isuzu left Canada before leaving the US market; Mercury also withdrew from Canada a few years ago.
My guess is that Ford will shut down the Mercury brand once Lincoln’s lineup is better filled out (i.e., the arrival of another model or two, such as the MKT crossover). Last year, Ford’s only remaining Mercury only franchise resigned, so all remaining Mercury dealers are paired with one or more other Ford brands, removing an obstacle to the brand’s elimination.
Another possibility, of course, is that Ford could just continue to create Mercury versions of Ford vehicles. There is little investment required, and the additional sales are probably more than Ford would have if, for example, only the Fusion was available and not the Milan.
No word yet on whether popular Mercury spokeswoman Jill Wagner would jump ship to Lincoln if Mercury is eliminated. If she does that, you know it’s the end for Mercury.