Thursday, June 3, 2010

Ford Kills Mercury; Owner Of Frank Myers Auto Maxx Responds

Ford Motor Company made it official yesterday, announcing that it will discontinue its 71-year-old Mercury brand by the end of the year and expand its Lincoln lineup with a new small car.

Ford’s board voted to cease production of all four Mercury models in the fourth quarter, said Mark Fields, the automaker’s president of the Americas. Ford will send letters to Mercury dealers this week offering them buyouts or the chance to merge with Ford showrooms.

“Given our improving financial situation, it really allows us to absorb the short-term cost of discontinuing Mercury,” Fields said, declining to reveal the expected expense. “We’re very proud of Mercury’s history, but we’re now looking forward.”

Mercury was the brainchild of Henry Ford's son, Edsel and was launched in 1938 as a midmarket brand aimed at bridging the gap between the mass market Blue Oval brand and the luxury Lincoln marque. But Mercury vehicles often were little more than rebadged Fords, and sales have declined steadily since 1993.

"It is a storied brand," said Derrick Kuzak, Ford's global product development chief. "But what's really important today is not the past. What's important today is the future: the future of Ford and the future of Lincoln."

Mercury, with 20 million vehicles sold over its lifetime, will join the scrap heap of other domestic brands killed by General Motors and Chrysler in their attempts to streamline operations to meet increasingly aggressive and popular foreign brands.

The Ford brand has performed well over the past 18 months, benefiting from a new product lineup, as well as the bankruptcies of General Motors and Chrysler and quality gaffes besetting Toyota Motor Corp.

But Lincoln has struggled to find its place in an increasingly crowded and competitive luxury market. Ford will redirect to Lincoln the resources it was investing in Mercury.

"We've made a lot of progress with the Ford brand," said Ford Americas President Mark Fields. "Now's the time to do that with Lincoln."

Over the next four years, Lincoln will get seven all-new or entirely refreshed products -- including a small car that had been designed for Mercury. Lincoln also will get brand-exclusive powertrains and other technologies to further distinguish it from Ford's namesake Blue Oval brand and make its vehicles more competitive with offerings from rival automakers.

“It’s sad that a brand that a nameplate as important as Mercury is leaving the marketplace,” said Tracy Myers, owner of Frank Myers Auto Maxx in Winston-Salem, NC. “However, as usual, we (Frank Myers Auto) are making the best out of a bad situation. We are committed to our Mercury driving friends and will continue to sell and service the brand as long as there is a demand for us to do so.”

Mercury now claims just eight-tenths of a percent of the U.S. car and truck market, Fields said. The Ford brand, by comparison, has gained more than twice that much share in the first four months of the year.

Fields said Ford's recent success enabled the automaker to retire Mercury, providing the financial resources needed to wind down the brand without undermining Ford's goal of being "solidly profitable" this year. Ford made $2.1 billion in the first quarter.

"It really allows the company to absorb the short-term cost of discontinuing Mercury," he said.

Ford will continue to honor warranty agreements and support Mercury owners with parts and service.

“Regardless of what Ford Motor Company is doing with Mercury, one of our best selling cars is the Mariner,” Myers said. “We are proud of our history of selling quality pre-owned Mercurys to the folks in Winston-Salem and will continue to do so.”
For more information about Mercury service at Frank Myers Auto Maxx, call (336) 831-0656 or visit

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