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Closed for business: The Mercury brand reaches the end of the road

Consumer Reports News: January 03, 2011 04:58 PM

On December 31, 2010, Ford officially closed the books on the brand, and all dealers were told to take down their Mercury signs.

The writing was on the wall since last May when word spread that Ford Motor Company was seriously considering cutting the brand. Notification was sent to the 1,700 dealers early in June. A few months later, the factories quit building new Mercurys in October, with the exception of limited government fleet orders.

In explaining its decisions, Ford officials said that Mercury has just a 0.8-percent market share—a fraction of what the Ford brand gained in 2010. Now very few cars remain on the lots of those no-longer-Mercury dealerships. Any 2010 or 2011 Mercury sold now from dealership inventory is considered a used car, with the exception of Michigan and West Virginia where dealers are still able to sell their Mercury stock as new through June 2011.

Current Mercury owners will still be able to take their cars to any Ford or Lincoln dealership for service, even under warranty. In fact, most of the former Mercury dealerships were Lincoln-Mercury stores, so most customers won't see much change.

If you plan to hang onto your car a long time, a leftover Mercury might make an attractive deal. Truecar.com shows Milans selling for as much as $1,800 off MSRP, and Mariners for as much as $1,700 off. This brand closure will likely accelerate depreciation, but not nearly as much as seen with the shuttered General Motors brands.

Except for the low-scoring Mountaineer and the Grand Marquis, all of Mercury's final models are recommended by Consumer Reports. But while the Mariner and the Milan are decent, reliable cars, they're not among the top models in their class.

With the current Mercury models all being just better-trimmed clones of Ford vehicles, the brand will fade away with limited drama or heart ache.

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. The aggressive scaling back seems to be working, as Ford sales are strong, profitability is enviable, and the latest products are promising.

Next week, we'll get a closer look at what the Blue Oval has in store for the near future when we cover the 2011 Detroit auto show.

Eric Evarts

   

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