The worst-kept secret in Dearborn is now official. After more than 70 years in business, Ford's Mercury brand will be killed by the fourth quarter of 2010.
According to Ford executives, this move allows the company to grow and expand the Lincoln brand, which is slated to receive seven new vehicles in the next four years.
"We have made tremendous progress on profitably growing the Ford brand during the past few years. Now, it is time to do the same for Lincoln," said Mark Fields, Ford's president of the The Americas. "The new Lincoln vehicles will transform luxury for North American premium customers through an unexpected blend of responsive driving enjoyment and warm, inviting comfort."
According to Fields, the decision to cut Mercury was difficult considering the brand's heritage, but an annual vehicle study put the final nail in the coffin. Mercury's total market share was shown to be 0.8 percent and most Mercury buyers were cross-shopping - and transitioning to - Ford vehicles.
Without giving specific details, Ford announced that it will bring seven all-new or significantly refreshed vehicles to its Lincoln lineup within four years, including a Lincoln-first C-segment vehicle. It was not mentioned whether the vehicle would follow the form of the Lincoln C Concept that debuted at the 2009 Detroit Auto Show, but it will not be a badge-engineered version of a previous Ford product. Later this year, the MKS hybrid sedan will come to market, with a refreshed MKT crossover with all-new exterior and interior design. A new fuel-efficient V-6 engine will also come to market with a new transmission.
According to Fields, standalone Lincoln dealers may be a possibility in some markets, while other markets will retain combined Ford and Lincoln showrooms. Dealers will be notified of changes within two days, with more developed plans to come within weeks. Owners of Mercury dealerships will be compensated for their closure and may have the option to transition into a Lincoln or Ford dealer. According to Ford, there are currently 1712 Mercury dealers. Of those, 925 also have Ford and Lincoln vehicles under their roofs. Another 511 are Ford and Mercury alone. No standalone Mercury dealers exist in North America.
Current Mercury owners will be notified in the coming weeks and Ford will continue to service Mercury vehicles at Ford service centers.