The word came down from Dearborn Wednesday that Ford’s 71-year-old Mercury brand will soon be phased out.
They were envisioned as fancy Fords, sedans and trucks with a touch of glitz and in the old days, an engine as big as a 2-bedroom bungalow.
Now, Mercury will join Plymouth, Pontiac, Oldsmobile and others in the graveyard of classic nameplates.
Founded in 1939 by Henry Ford’s son Edsel as a mid-range brand between Ford and Lincoln, Mercury has been declining for years.
It hit its sales peak in 1978 and again in 1993.
“Clearly there wasn’t a huge difference in the type of customer, the price points between Ford and Mercury,” says Mark Truby, Ford’s head of Communications.
“You could kind of read between the lines,” said Charles Wright, co-owner of Jack O’ Diamonds Lincoln-Mercury. “As far as the advertising money, the product development, you just didn’t see it there. So we pretty much saw this coming.”
Classic models like the Monterey, Comet and Cougar are the cars that boomers grew up with and loved, but the slide has been pronounced.
“The marketing support has not been there as it has with other Ford-branded products. It takes its toll,” Wright told us.
In May, when virtually every other automaker was booming, and Ford sales overall were up 23%, Mercury sales slid 11%.
“The decision was only made recently,” Truby said. “In fact it was just finalized this week. But it wouldn’t be right to say it was an indication of any one month’s sales.”
Mercury doesn’t have any unique products of its own, so its lineup can be covered by Lincoln on the high end and Ford on the affordable end.
The focus now is Lincoln…
“We really wanted to focus and accelerate the Lincoln brand,” says Truby, “and truly make it world class and in a position to compete with the Cadillacs and Lexuses of the world.”
Wright agrees, “We can already see and we’ve been seeing the kind of investment and the kind of emphasis and the kind of direction Ford has been going with Lincoln.”
Production of Mercurys ends in the 4th quarter of this year.