Ford has decided to kill its Mercury brand and turn Lincoln into something more eminent than the floating highway boat it is today. The Detroit Free Press has more:
(Ford)…will now devote unprecedented resources to expanding Lincoln’s lineup with new models, style and technology. Ford will now use resources that would have gone to Mercury to expand Lincoln’s lineup of luxury models with seven new or significantly reworked vehicles in the next four years, including the brand’s first premium compact.
The money and talent Ford would previously have spent freshening Mercury’s modest model line will now be dedicated to turning Lincoln into a serious competitor for the likes of Cadillac and Lexus, Ford president of the Americas Mark Fields said as he announced Mercury’s demise Wednesday.
Ford’s track record of managing multiple brands does not inspire great confidence in that plan. Engineers and executives who got distracted by luxury brands nearly ruined the company earlier in this decade. They obsessed on Jaguar, Land Rover and Volvo while the bread-and-butter Ford brand fell into disrepair.
Now Ford has to prove it can create great cars and trucks for both the Ford and Lincoln brands. Lincoln is to get seven all new or substantially updated vehicles over the next four years. They’ll all have unique looks and features, a far cry from the recent past when a Lincoln was frequently just a Ford with more chrome and better leather.
The plan includes a compact vehicle, the likes of which Lincoln has never sold before. There will also be new engines and unique technologies to complement the excellent interiors and arresting looks of recent Lincolns.
The Houston Chronicle explains why Ford is killing Mercury:
…Mercury vehicles often were little more than rebadged Fords, and sales declined since 1993. Perhaps Mercury’s best vehicles came in the 1960s, when Cougars, Comets and Marauders rumbled down the road with big engines. The biggest volume year came in the next decade — 1978, when Mercury sold 580,000.
Ford Americas President Mark Fields said Mercury’s sales make up such a small percentage of North American market share — less than 1 percent, compared with Ford brand’s 16 percent — and that the profile of Ford and Mercury shoppers is so similar, it makes more sense to focus on Ford and Lincoln.
(Meanwhile) Lincoln has struggled to find its place in an increasingly crowded luxury market.
The best outcome here would be that consolidation helps Ford (and other American carmakers) produce quality, attractive cars again. So far, it’s looking promising. It will be especially encouraging if manufacturers can increase their electric and hybrid offerings to compete with other global automakers.