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Another brand falls: Ford to close Mercury

Consumer Reports News: June 02, 2010 02:58 PM

Ford Motor Company has announced that it will close down its Mercury brand in late 2010 and it will expand the Lincoln product portfolio. The 1,700 Mercury dealers will receive formal notification tomorrow morning, though there are no Mercury-only dealers in North America. Of those, 825 dealers also have Ford and Lincoln franchises, and 511 are Ford and Mercury.

Increased resources are being committed to Lincoln, company executives say. Lincoln will launch seven new models, increasing focus on comfort and quality – a shortcoming for the brand highlighted in our latest car reliability survey. Coming soon, Lincoln will add a hybrid MKZ sedan and the MKX crossover will be updated (as is the related Ford Edge). A C-segment vehicle is coming, sized like a Ford Focus. The company says it is specifically targeting Cadillac and Lexus, and will also focus on improving customers’ dealer experiences.


Future Lincolns will receive exclusive powertrains, including a new V6, and EcoBoost turbocharged engines will be available across the entire line up. Common features going forward will include active suspension, active noise control, electronic push-button gear selection, and retractable glass roofs.

In explaining its decisions, Ford officials said that Mercury has just an 0.8-percent market share. In contrast, Ford brand gained more than two percentage points this year.

Mercury warranty and service needs will be met by Ford and Lincoln dealers going forward. Current owners will be notified of this decision and told how Ford will support their vehicles going forward. 

Ford plans special incentives this summer to help its dealers sell off its Mercury inventory. The last Mercury will be built in the fourth quarter.

How does Mercury compare?
Half of the current Mercury models meet Consumer Reports’ criteria to be recommended, the Mariner and Milan. The Grand Marquis and Mountaineer do not score high enough in our tests to recommend.

In our last reliability survey, Mercury fared well, ranking 10th among 33 car brands. It moved up five places from the previous year.

Ford, with a much more diverse product line, ranked 16th. Lincoln placed 20th, with more problems than average.

Lincoln's reliability has been spotty, with only the MKZ and Town Car having above average reliability. After a poor start, the Navigator has improved to average, but the MKX and MKS are both below average. (See our full road tests.)

Bottom line
This is the latest step in Ford reshaping its long-term strategies, preceded by the Blue Oval selling off its Premium Automotive Group—Aston Martin, Jaguar, Land Rover, and Volvo—to overseas corporations.

It is sad to lose another decades-old American car brand to history, though the transition promises to be less painful for dealers and customers than with some other retired brands this past year. For owners, there may be limited direct impact. Cars can be serviced at the same dealership it was purchased at, or any other Ford or Lincoln store. This action will likely accelerate depreciation, but not nearly as much as seen with the shuttered General Motors brands.

Also read:
If Ford closes Mercury, what does it mean to you?
Ford may close Mercury

Jeff Bartlett

   

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