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NINETY EIGHT REGENCY

As Ford gets product real, Mercury prepares for its slow fade into oblivion.

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RANTS by Peter M. De Lorenzo

As Ford gets product real, Mercury prepares for its slow fade into oblivion.

Detroit. It's ironic that it took a guy from the aircraft industry to finally get Ford back on track to reality while forging its future product lineup. But ever since Alan Mulally showed up at the Glass House in Dearborn, he has been trying to get the company off of its collective duff by chasing the bureaucratic naysayers out of their fiefdoms while purging their territorial silos and getting the entire organization focused on The Plan in order to get Ford's product house in order. And to Mulally's credit, for the first time in a long time I'm seeing definite signs of life over in Dearborn.

It appears that no one understands the fewer products/better products mantra in this town better than Mulally. The days of Ford chasing its tail in order to keep up with the Joneses (i.e., General Motors) and coming up with a product plan that makes little sense for the size and scope of the company as it stands today are thankfully over. Ford's new product lineup in the coming years utilizes its global resources to the fullest extent possible, while consolidating platforms and importing "best" ideas from around the world. It's really the only way Ford has a shot at surviving, let alone thriving over the next decade.

With the question of purging the luxury brands a matter of "when" and not "if" - getting Ford's product right in the North American market is an urgent priority. Long overdue, yes, but the fact that it's consuming everything Ford's got right now is encouraging.

And of the new product priorities for Ford, I see the following as being the most urgent:

End the small car madness at Ford. To say the new Focus is a disappointment is an understatement. It's filled with derivative styling gimmicks, it's hopelessly bland, and it really leaves me wondering what the hell happened during its development. This is a car that has been waiting in the wings for two years? Ugh. Ford is touting its new B-car, and well it should (except for its name - Verve - which hopefully will be left on the concept shown recently and will not be taken forward). But I also hear a new Fiesta being bandied about at Ford too. And all of this needs to stop. Ford needs one great small car in the North American market, not three. And if it's the new B-car, so be it.

Quit screwing around with Lincoln. End the alphabet soup naming regimen at Lincoln immediately. The names are nonsensical, they have no meaning in the market, and they have successfully detached a once-proud American luxury brand from its considerable history. It's okay to get up in front of the world and say, "We screwed up, we're going back to our classic names like Continental, Mark and Town Car, and we look forward to building great American luxury cars again." And then go do it.

While we're on the subject of names... What part of calling your new station wagon (yes, station wagon, spare us the "crossover" moniker, please) "Flex" seemed like a good idea? Is there a faction over in Dearborn that gets up every morning believing that the bland-tastic name for this car is "safe" because it won't offend anybody and then they won't have to be pinned down when explaining what it actually is? Get over it. It's a classic American station wagon, and it deserves a classic Ford name. Fairlane was just right for the concept, and it's damn near perfect for the production car.

Design and engineer a great RWD platform for more than just a new Mustang. Yes, a new RWD platform is being developed for the next-generation Mustang, and it better be great. But it also better be used for two new RWD Lincolns (a "Mark" and a new "Town Car") and a Ford Interceptor sedan. If you can't make a new RWD platform count for several products, then why are you doing it? As long as the Mustang remains the raison d'etre for the company (along with the iconic F-150), then make its RWD platform spin gold.

The rest of the article is here:

http://www.autoextremist.com/index.shtml

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Lincoln has a new Mark, but apparently you think they have too many, and the wrong Mark.

On Fairlane, I have to agree. If Town and Country was good enough for Chrysler, then Fairlane can't be beaten for the Flex. And Taurus X? Sheesh.

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The writing has been on the wall for Mercury over the last few months. No new cars at the Showroom of Tomorrow, no concepts, no Sable X / Meta One, etc.

It sounds like Ford is just whittling it down to Ford, Lincoln, and Mazda, which is really sad. I truly think Mercury has a place and Ford could really do something with that brand, but I think the wheels have been set in motion for a while now and it's just a matter of time before the axe drops.

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Quit screwing around with Lincoln. End the alphabet soup naming regimen at Lincoln immediately. The names are nonsensical, they have no meaning in the market, and they have successfully detached a once-proud American luxury brand from its considerable history. It's okay to get up in front of the world and say, "We screwed up, we're going back to our classic names like Continental, Mark and Town Car, and we look forward to building great American luxury cars again." And then go do it.

Cadillac needs to take this advice first!

Design and engineer a great RWD platform for more than just a new Mustang. Yes, a new RWD platform is being developed for the next-generation Mustang, and it better be great. But it also better be used for two new RWD Lincolns (a "Mark" and a new "Town Car") and a Ford Interceptor sedan. If you can't make a new RWD platform count for several products, then why are you doing it? As long as the Mustang remains the raison d'etre for the company (along with the iconic F-150), then make its RWD platform spin gold.

My firm belief in BOF architecture aside, I think we all agree the

Crown Vic./Grand Marq/Town Car should have been redesigned

100% ground up about a decade ago. We just had a guy trade

in a 2007 Town Car Signature Series with 4K miles in on an EXT.

While overall I love the car (power up/down trunk esp.) I have

to say the dash-cluster on that Lincoln looked cheaper than the

instrument cluster on a 10 year old Korean car. NO JOKE.

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I agree with the comments on Lincoln. What the heck does MKZ, MKX, or MKS mean to the buying public. I think Lincoln believes it can chase European and Japanese luxury brands if it adopts an alpha nomenclature system. Unfortunately, Lincoln does not have the market identity as a true luxury brand to do this. Lincoln needs to be transformed into a true "American" luxury brand with styling and model names that exclaim "I'm American and I'm proud of it!" It also needs its own distinctive, upscale exterior/interior styling; sticking Lincoln grilles, headlights, taillights, and black plastic pieces to alter the roofline on a car does not fool people into thinking that the MKZ is something more than a gussied up Ford Fusion. It's sad that Lincoln has been reduced to this level.

I also agree that Fairlane would have been an appropriate model name for what Ford foolishly wants to call Flex. It served the concept well and would have worked just as well for the production version.

Mercury is in a really tough position right now. At one point I thought Mercury could be transformed into an Eurocentric brand to sell Ford of Europe's products stateside. After reading Mr. Mullaly's comments on future product plans, I am not sure if this idea will work. I am confused whether the U.S. Ford brand will be adopting Ford of Europe's kinetic design philosophy or keeping its "Red, White, & Bold" design philosophy. If it adopts the kinetic design philosophy, then I don't know where this would leave Mercury. Mercury cannot continue as an uplevel Ford clone brand selling badge engineered versions of Ford products; this makes Mercury very irrelevant in the auto market. Mercury needs its own identity and design philosophy or it sadly needs to disappear. I would like to see it stick around, but only it it can differentiate itself from Ford and become a true player in the near luxury market.

I also agree with the comment about developing a great rear wheel drive platform for more than just the Mustang. The Interceptor and MKR concepts need to make their way into reality on rear wheel drive platforms.

I hope Mr. Mullaly can steer Ford Corporation in the right direction and give all its brands truly competitive products to set the market on fire.

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What is the fascination with BOF? Some of the best American cars ever have been unibody. Continental, Thunderbird, Chrysler B, C, M bodies (the quintessential cop cars).

Cadillac needs to take this advice first!

My firm belief in BOF architecture aside, I think we all agree the

Crown Vic./Grand Marq/Town Car should have been redesigned

100% ground up about a decade ago. We just had a guy trade

in a 2007 Town Car Signature Series with 4K miles in on an EXT.

While overall I love the car (power up/down trunk esp.) I have

to say the dash-cluster on that Lincoln looked cheaper than the

instrument cluster on a 10 year old Korean car. NO JOKE.

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Friend, you have a very romanticized view of what Lincoln is and what it has been since the 1960s. Lincoln since then has always been a guzzied up Ford. Check out Lincolns and full sized Fords from the early 1970s for instance. Wheelbases might be different but the basic car is still the same. The ride was nearly the same in my parent's '73 LTD as it was in my grandmother's '73 Continental.

Lincoln doesn't need to be BMW. There are plenty of self-made people who like Lincoln's style. Without Mercury, Lincoln will have more room to spread its wings. BTW, I hope they ditch the Mark LT. What a travesty.

sticking Lincoln grilles, headlights, taillights, and black plastic pieces to alter the roofline on a car does not fool people into thinking that the MKZ is something more than a gussied up Ford Fusion. It's sad that Lincoln has been reduced to this level.

Edited by buyacargetacheck
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Today's Town Car is really a bad joke at retail MSRP. $42k+ and no stability control. The '98 looked better, more integrated.

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End the small car madness at Ford. To say the new Focus is a disappointment is an understatement. It's filled with derivative styling gimmicks, it's hopelessly bland, and it really leaves me wondering what the hell happened during its development. This is a car that has been waiting in the wings for two years? Ugh. Ford is touting its new B-car, and well it should (except for its name - Verve - which hopefully will be left on the concept shown recently and will not be taken forward). But I also hear a new Fiesta being bandied about at Ford too. And all of this needs to stop. Ford needs one great small car in the North American market, not three. And if it's the new B-car, so be it.

Bull$h!..

Ford needs to rapidly expand all of it's small car and B-segment offerings in order to cash in on the market and establish a presence as the market is maturing. They did the same thing with the SUV market and it paid off big time. And they're currently doing the same thing with the X-over market. Build the public a VARIETY of opportunities to become a member of the Ford family because UNLIKE Japan Inc. People won't by just 'some $h!' with a trendy chrome badge on it from Detroit; they actually have to WORK hard for their sales and that means INNOVATION and variety.

Fairlane was just right for the concept, and it's damn near perfect for the production car.

Spot on...

It was fun while it lasted, but Mercury has to go. Yes, it's a nightmare scenario for the dealers, and it conjures up all the bad juju that the death of Oldsmobile once caused for GM, but the fact of the matter is that Mercury has become expendable - and redundant. In the new Ford, there's only one thing that really matters - the Ford blue oval. It's the brand that has to thrive in the U.S. market if Ford is to survive. Lincoln, of course, when properly guided and nurtured, can be big for the Ford Motor Company once again, so its role for the company is solidly entrenched. But Mercury? It's burning up a lot of time, money and energy that Ford can ill-afford to expend right now. Watch Mercury do a slow fade into oblivion as its role in the new Ford wanes.

Pure ignorance... Especially if Ford sells off all of PAG

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I'm surprised Mercury's lasted this long. Its a far more redundant brand than Oldsmobile and Plymouth ever were.

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i disagree on the fairlane bit. fairlane is a dated name, and sounds fuddy. Plus it has all sorts of baggage.

flex will catch on, the name at least. Why give a new vehicle an old name?

edge, fusion, flex....sounds good

edge, fusion, ....FAIRLANE?

um, no. Fairlane is dumb in 2007.

Taurus X is a way to keep all sales for taurus and x under one listing. smart move.

Ford should keep Volvo and Jag and LR IMHO. at a minimum, keep working relationships with Volvo.

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I'm surprised Mercury's lasted this long. Its a far more redundant brand than Oldsmobile and Plymouth ever were.

No, Plymouth was far worse (except that it managed to get the Prowler at the very end). Plymouth in the 90s was the king of rebadges...literally grille and taillight swaps. A Plymouth Neon is a Dodge Neon which a cheaper interior, wheel covers, and a Plymouth sailboat badge...they didn't even bother changing the name. Mercury has begun to share more sheet metal with Fords in the 00s, but at least they still do full frontal and rear swaps. And even though the Topaz/Tracer were kinda lame, they had some good stuff like the Cougar and a true full-size RWDer. Edited by mustang84
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No, Plymouth was far worse (except that it managed to get the Prowler at the very end). Plymouth in the 90s was the king of rebadges...literally grille and taillight swaps. A Plymouth Neon is a Dodge Neon which a cheaper interior, wheel covers, and a Plymouth sailboat badge...they didn't even bother changing the name. Mercury has begun to share more sheet metal with Fords in the 00s, but at least they still do full frontal and rear swaps. And even though the Topaz/Tracer were kinda lame, they had some good stuff like the Cougar and a true full-size RWDer.

Chrysler botched Plymouth pretty badly in the end, that's true, but Mercury has NEVER been more than a dolled-up Ford. Occasionally Ford occassionally throws it a bone that sets it slightly apart from Ford (Cougar), but that's really not too often.

Edited by AxelTheRed
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