From the files of “Not Surprising News” comes word that Ford has finally decided to wind-down the Mercury brand. The complete lack of news coverage and enthusiast whining is a good indication that not only is this the right move, but one that is a long time coming.
While Ford has sold a number of prestige lines that it previously acquired, this will be the first corporate-created brand to be brought out behind the woodshed and shot since Edsel back in 1960. Edsel might be somewhat synonymous with automotive failure, but one could reasonably say that no other long-surviving marque has seen less success than Mercury.
Edsel Ford started Mercury in 1939 as a mid-level choice between Ford and Lincoln lines to compete against Pontiac and lower-level Oldsmobiles. The focus quickly turned towards offering a little more performance and amenities than Ford brand cars. On the strength of its 1949 products, Mercury soared to be the sixth-best selling brand in America with 301,319 cars. (Ford and Chevy sold over a million, with 520,385 Plymouths, 324,276 Buicks, and 304,819 Pontiacs all submitting superior sales.) Unit sales would eclipse 1949’s figures from time-to-time over the years, but Mercury would never again rank as high in terms of total market share.
Blame uninspiring and poorly differentiated products. To find the last interesting or even somewhat notable Mercury, one would probably have to go back to 1970 with the 375-horse 429-ci-powered Cyclone Spoilers and Cougars. With a few exceptions (such as various Capris and the last version of the Cougar), since then Mercury has been little more than something akin to an upscale trim-level designation to core Ford brand products. The company’s last attempt at an image car was the Marauder, which was little more than a 1990’s police interceptor Crown Victoria with black paint and couple of tacked-on cheap ancillary gauges. The product launched with a thud and faded quickly with a whimper. Since then, the company has offered nothing more than well-trimmed Fords or stripped Lincolns.
So at the end of the year Mercury will cease to produce badges (since they don’t really produce cars.) And its die-hard customers? Ford must have finally figured out what the rest of us have known for decades — they’ll just buy the same vehicles — except with the Ford or Lincoln name, which is more profitable for the Blue Oval boys anyway!