Ford is preparing to phase out its 71-year old Mercury brand, adding to the list of storied Detroit nameplates that reached the end of the road in recent years as the industry has become more competitive.
Ford CEO Alan Mulally and his C-suite have won the backing of key members of the Ford family and are expected to seek approval from the car maker’s board to kill Mercury after years of dwindling sales, according to a Wall Street Journal Report.
Mercury was created in 1939 by Edsel Ford, the son of legendary founder Henry Ford. It was prompted by General Motors Co.’s strategy of building a “ladder of brands” that included Chevrolet, Pontiac, Oldsmobile, Buick and Cadillac. That allowed GM to appeal to a wide range of customers and move them up the brand and price ladder as their incomes rose, enabling GM to pass Ford as the world’s largest auto maker.
Mercury would be the latest Detroit brand to die since 2000. As part of its bankruptcy restructuring last year, GM shut down its Pontiac and Saturn divisions, and Hummer appears to be headed for the same fate. Earlier this decade GM phased out Oldsmobile and Chrysler Group LLC killed off Plymouth.
Mercury’s future has been in question ever since Mulally arrived as CEO in 2006 and mapped out a turnaround plan that called for phasing out niche brands and putting most of the company’s resources into its Ford division. Since then, Ford has sold Jaguar, Land Rover and most recently Volvo.
WSJ said Mulally and other senior executives recently persuaded the company’s chairman, William C. Ford Jr., and a cousin of his who works at the company, Elena Ford, to phase out Mercury. Elena Ford had strongly opposed previous efforts to shut down the brand.
Under Mulally, Mercury received few new models. The Sable sedan—a knockoff of the Ford Taurus—was phased out in 2009 and production of the Mountaineer SUV and Grand Marquis large sedan will end this year.
That leaves Mercury with only two models: the Milan, a midsized car, and the Mariner, a small SUV.
In Washington, Ford CEO Alan Mulally said: “As you know, we continue to evaluate all of our models … But we have nothing new to announce today.”
Sales of Mercury are down by more than 70% since 2000, according to The Detroit Free Press. And Mercury has a dry product pipeline, which has suggested to dealers that the brand might be on its way out, observed the story: “Aside from the Milan midsize sedan and Mariner SUV, Mercury hasn’t had many strong sellers in recent years.”