Sunday, September 25, 2005

Mercury, a brand with no direction or purpose, maybe time to just pull the plug?

Do you remember the last unique or interesting Mercury you saw? Leave the Marauder out of the picture for a minute. Try and think of the last Mercury that wasn't a rebadged Ford. In my mind it's this car, the 1968/69 Mercury Montego MX, my dad had one in red with black interior and vynl top. This car was based on the Fairlane/Torino chassis, but it was one of the last Mercury cars to be differntiated enough from the Ford it was based on to be relevant.
The Marauder XM-100 was THE LAST. What does Ford have in store for Mercury in the future? What's the big news over there? There is none, only a new crop of pimped up Fords or watered down Lincolns, depending on your view.

Let's examine what's on Mercury showroom floors today;

Montego, is a rebadged 500, Milan is a rebadged Fusion, Mariner is a rebadged Escape, Sable was a rebadged Taurus, Grand Marquis is a rebadged Crown Victoria, Mountaineer is a rebadged Explorer, Mercury is a Ford with that stupid waterfall grill.

But this shouldn't be a surprise to anyone who is familiar with the begining of Mercury. In 1939 Ford brought out the first Mercury, a rebadged Ford. If you look at the two side by side, you have to look carefully for the differences. In the 50's Mercury took of with it's own identity, starting with the 49 Mercury, which most people wouldn't recognize if they saw stock. The leader of the Led Sled movement, at one point the coolest car to own was a Mercury. Everyone wanted to be James Dean. Mercury had it's own racing team and development program even into the early to mid 70's. The 60's (early) were the golden years for the brand. With the Marauder and Turnpike Cruiser, styling that was as far from Ford as you could get and still use shared platforms.

Going back from today, let's examine any models that Mercury had that weren't rebadged Ford, shall we? If we set the time machine to 1999 we find two models available, the Cougar and the Capri, both based on overseas Ford models. The Cougar from 99-03 was a two door coupe based on the Euopean Mondeo or Contour/Mystique 4 door sedan. A nice package, sporty and economical, but not marketed much. The tuner crowd has picked up on this sporty coupe and you see them modified at many car shows today. But was it unique? In Europe they sold it as a Ford. Now the Capri, was supposed to be a way to tag onto the success of the Miata. Based on Mazda 323 mechanicals it was an Australian Ford Capri/Laser imported for a few years, but it's front wheel drive chassis failed to catch the same spirit that the Miata had tapped into and it was cancled.

In the late 80's early 90's there was the Tracer, a rebadged 323 again, this time replacing the Lynx Escort clone. Not a unique car, not really a Mercury. What about Merkur you might ask, again imported Fords from Europe and not really Mercury. What about the Capri from the 80's ? No a rebadged Mustang, don't know who thought they needed that. But wait that mistake could be repeated, just think of the recent Mercury Messenger concept, a ugly Mustang based sporty coupe that many want to revive the Cougar name. The 70's are a vast Mercury wasteland, I can't thik of one unique model during the decade, and what they did to the Cougar was just a sin. Who in their right mind would make a 4 door Cougar, never mind the Mercury Cougar Vilager wagon. Someone should have been shot for that one. Don't get me wrong, they were decent cars, but why the Cougar name? The Cougar for many years became nothing more than a T-Bird and LTD II clone, loosing the legacy of the original.

I guess the rational for keeping Mercury around has been twofold, first giving Lincoln dealers lower priced vehicles to increase traffic, and second to squeeze a few more bucks out of the rubes by selling them a Bobcat or Zephyr for a premium over the Pinto and Fairmont.

Mercury has run it's course, put it out to pasture, if you want to give Lincoln dealers traffic, bring out some decent models. After all, you don't see Lexus/Toyota dealers. And if you think I'm being harsh, just think I'm a Ford fanatic, what do the tough critics think?

Here are some links for Mercury fans;

  • Marauder

  • IMOA/li>

    Dotty Gale said...

    Sports coupes!! The world NEEDS more sports coupes!!

    Instead of pulling the plug, maybe Ford should give Mercury some purpose and direction. Like Pontiac for GM or Dodge for Chrysler, Mercury should start honing a reputation for performance ( whether the reality merits such a label or not ).

    Anonymous said...

    If Ford kills Mercury, then Lincoln WILL starve to death, and rather quickly. Mercury may not have many sexy unique cars, however, they make money for Ford.

    Big Ford Fan said...

    Dotty Gale, you are 100% correct, Mercury needs purpose and direction, but that purpose should not be to just sell rebadged Ford cars. Mercury needs some unique product and an identity. Just like Pontiac over at GM. I will post some of my ideas for Mercury again.

    Anonymous, Lincoln will starve no matter what happens to Mercury. Their lack of vision and competative product will see to that. Lincoln has relied to heavily these last few years on limo and car service sales as well as the Navigator. With trends in the industry towards power and handling as well as economy, Lincoln has nothing. The new Zephyr will not be enough to save the brand. The new Continental on the 500 platform will be a snooze. Maybe the new Aviator will generate some buzz, but of course it will be underpowered in a field where power is important.

    Anonymous said...

    I agree with everything you said, except the Mustang-based Cougar type of car. I think Mercury needs to do this, I believe that the market is ready for a Mustang-sized car with a whole lot more maturity (both in it's owners and in it's specifications) than Ford has left us with. Many of us want something more sophisticated without the association of punk poseurs.
    The car has to have no relationship whatsoever with the current Mustang shell. No sharing of dash or even the roofline. Make it a notchback, make it very comfortable, and make it sophisticated (that means the IRS suspension that is production-rewady). Give us a 4.6 3-valve retuned for premium fuel, call it 330 HP. Price is much more than a Mustang, and much less than a Mark-IX. That means around 40k, fully appointed with the only option being 6-speed auto or manual and nav.


    Big Ford Fan said...

    Jeff if they can do it without the design of the Messenger and with enough content (moonroof, DVD Navigation, and standard leather) Maybe, but less boy racer, that shouldn't be the image they go for.

    Not just another clone like the Capri of 80's

    Anonymous said...

    Kill it! Drop it!! Pull the plug!!!

    Fold Lincoln into the "Ford" dealer network. DCX saw the light with Plymouth and GM with Olds. Also. I have not reasearched the subject but question if Merc contributes much, if any, to the "profit" picture... But Billy and WCF won't do it!

    Big Ford Fan said...

    Anonymous poster, "Billy" is obviously Bill Ford, but WCF?
    Can you let me know who or what that is?

    I'm not certain that killing Mercury alltogether would be the right decision, but I do think that as it stands right not, the brand is irelivant. I think the brand should be reimagined as I point out in the following post.

    I would ask that Anonymous posters, please use a nick name or initials so I can address responses accordingly. I'm sure your friends and family don't call you Anonymous. You don't have to register with Blogger or anything, just type some sort of identifier at the end of comments please.

    Anonymous said...

    Just a bit rough on the beaver,hey Ward.

    Ford could lose Mercury , But in my opinion it would weaken Ford. The status quo isn't even close to perfect. Mercury could most defenitley use the Messesnger and yes the MIlan, and other rebadged mazda's and volvo's. Mercury is lost with out an image but that is the Core of the problem with all of Ford. there is no excitement except of course the mustang.

    You rage aginst the fact Mercury is nothing but rebadged "other" Ford vehicles, and that is exactly what has happened with Ford. Ford needs to fix the 3 teirs. Ford as the Mainstream , Mercury as the mid luxury and lincoln as luxury , why not have performance in all teirs.

    GM has more than 3 brands to juggle in this market and more internationally , the comparisons are not equal. Olds was competeing for the same customers as Buick. Plymouth was axed again because the entry level was in both brands, what was the diffrence in the market place. Ford has the proper history in these brands and can manage to increase it's market share if it uses them right, maybe make Mercury the Euro brand fighter and Ford the Asian fighter( lexus and Infiniti being exceptions) Lincoln the American Luxury .

    I understnd your frustration but get rid of mercury and you sign the death warrant of Ford.

    Midnight Magnum

    Anonymous said...

    I always the reason for Mercury was just to give more inventory for Lincoln dealers to sell.

    Anonymous said...

    That's it - the physical building has a virtual Mercury half and a Lincoln half. The two are co-located in the great majority of dealers. You may remember that Ford tried to separate them in the very late '90s, and that the dealers rebelled.

    Big Ford Fan said...

    MM, yes I guess I do seem to be a little rough on Mercury, but the way I see it, it's better to get criticism from a fan than from the enemy. Mercury (Ford) can look at this as the ranting of a madman or they can see that I am a concerned fan and take the constructive blows.

    I "rage" about Mercury being rebadged Fords, it's true, but the difference between Ford sharing platforms with partners and Mercury is huge. Ford shares platforms and some common parts on Ford and Partner vehicles, but if you look at the Ford Mondeo and it's platform mates the Jaguar X Type and Volvo S60, each has a very unique persona. The same could be said for the Volvo S80 and Ford 500, they share the platform and some common elements, but have characteristics that easily differentiate them, not just sheetmetal, but powertrain and suspension as well.

    As for the Mazda6, Ford Fusion/Milan/Zephyr, it's again a case of shared platform and parts, but the Ford triplets ride on a enlarged chassis and have more interior space than the Mazda.

    Now the difference between the Ford and Mercury is no more than sheetmetal. There is no real differentiation between the two, the Milan is just a rebadged Fusion with a few more standard features. The Lincoln hopefully has enough differentiation to fill the gap and claim it's own identity.

    You may also be correct about killing Mercury being bad for Ford, but if you look at the comments and the next post, you will see that I have backed off that, offering alternatives as I see them. This post is serving it's purpose to spur comment and discusion on an issue that Ford needs to address. You're also right that Ford needs to give brands clearer images and goals, although there will always be some crossover. But Ford is not GM, and should have learned the lesson that GM hasn't, not every brand needs a truck, mini van and SUV.

    Would anyone want to see a Lincoln version of the Focus? I don't think so, but Hybrid versions of the V6 Zephyr and Aviator would be a wise move. Does Mercury need a version of the F-150? Not a chance, isn't it bad enough that Lincoln has one. But Cadilac's move into the truck market makes that a necessity.

    Anonymous said...

    "WCF" is William Clay Ford and yes, Billy is the younger Mr. Ford.
    ...and I'll change my name from "anonymous" to "car-man"

    Great Blog spot!!!

    Big Ford Fan said...

    Car-Man, thanks for clearing that up, don't know why I didn't think of that, but I've always focused more on the cars than the people.

    And thank you for signing with a name, it makes it easier for me to follow the thread of comments and addrees response correctly.

    Glad you like the blog, it's a lot of fun for me, and to paraphrase "It keeps me from killing Y'all"

    My blog is theraputic,keeping me focused on the cars instead of real life. Like many blogges, I need to get a hobby, Oh wait this is my hobby.

    Mustang boy said...

    Mercury sells cars and bring benefits to Ford. They might not be the sexiest cars but they have their enthusiasts and I personnaly better like to have a Mercury than a Honda Civic hehe

    Big Ford Fan said...

    Mustang Boy, I mostly agree with your comment, but let me ask two questions.

    First, would you buy a Mercury over a Ford, givent that the price would be slightly higher for the Mercury?

    Second, your profile says you are from France, have you ever seen a late model Mercury?

    The reason I ask, is that I know that Ford does not market Mercury outside of the North American markets. Mercury doesn't offer any models in Europe. So any you may have seen would have been privately imported.

    I too would prefer a Ford,Lincoln or Mercury product over any Honda.
    But if you are familiar with Mercury's line up, you will know that the brand doesn't sell anything in the Civic's class at this time. Luckily Ford sells the Focus, but Mercury has nothing for customers, considering the Civic.