- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Ford Motor Co. announced Wednesday afternoon in a press conference in Dearborn, Mich., that it would drop its 72-year-old Mercury brand, the latest example of an American auto giant shedding one of its divisions.

Spokesmen from the company said that while the decision was a difficult one, from a financial standpoint, it was the only one the company could make.

Mercury’s sales have been declining, from its peak of 580,000 vehicles in 1978 to just 92,000 in 2009. The division’s sales for May dropped from 10,221 last year to 9,128 this year. The market share for Mercury in the U.S. is at just 0.8 percent, while Ford’s overall share in the market is about 15 percent.

At the press conference, Ford officials announced plans to enhance and focus on the company’s Lincoln-brand automobiles, and said these plans played a role in the decision to kill Mercury.

Mark Fields, the executive vice president for the company, expressed that the desire to focus on enhancing the Lincoln line as a factor in the decision.

“Now it’s really time to take [Lincoln] to the next level,” he said.

Mr. Fields emphasized that no dealers will be eliminated, as all Mercury dealers also have either a Lincoln or a Ford franchise.

“There are no Mercury-only dealers in North America,” he said.

He also said no jobs would be eliminated as a result of the cut.

However, another of the spokesmen expressed that the decision “affects people” and that some dealerships “are going to go out of business.”

Some expressed concern that the elimination of Mercury would hurt some Lincoln/Mercury and Ford/Mercury dealers that rely on the sale of the middle-class car.

As a whole, Ford’s sales have been on the rise. The company’s sales jumped 21.9 percent from May 2009 to May 2010. Furthermore, the company’s year-to-date sales, as of June 2, are up 30.1 percent from last year.

The Mercury brand’s line includes the Milan, Grand Marquis and Sable cars, and the Mariner and Mountaineer sport-utility vehicles.

In just the past decade, Chrysler has dropped its Plymouth brand and General Motors Corp. ceased to produce Oldsmobiles. Last year’s bankruptcy-related restructuring forced GM to drop or sell its Pontiac, Saturn, Saab and Hummer divisions.



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