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ehaase

The Gods Must Favor Mercury

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The gods must love Mercury

Ford brand survives another near-death

Bryce G. Hoffman / The Detroit News

November 27, 2005

DEARBORN-- Whether a winged messenger as its name suggests or an albatross, Ford Motor Co.'s Mercury brand has survived another brush with death.

As part of a comprehensive re-examination of Ford Motor Co.'s domestic operations being led by Mark Fields, the new president of the automaker's Americas division, Ford recently took another hard look at the brand's future.

The conclusion? Mercury still brings in more money than the company would save by sending it the way of Chrysler's Plymouth brand and General Motors Corp.'s Oldsmobile marque.

http://www.detnews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/artic.../511270326/1148 Edited by ehaase
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I just don't get the point of Mercury. I mean, no joke, the WHOLE brand could be eliminated if Ford just put a slightly nicer trim on top of the ones they already have. Like, if they wanted to call the top trim limited, they could just throw Mercury's junk in there.. which, really isn't THAT much nicer. People want a ford that looks nicer? Lincoln. Now if Ford wants to make Mercury a decent division with some nice cars, then hello, time for them to dish out original brand-only products. Ummm.. gimme a nice Cougar (and not that last gen crap--the gen before was beautiful in my eyes)
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I'd like to see a new Cougar as well, based on Mustang but as different as the first generation was in 1967. It should have the same engines and transmissions as Mustang, except maybe keep the Cobra engine Ford-only.

If we look back on Mercury at the time of the first generation Cougar, every model was more unique than any model is today. The Grand Marquis and Milan are the most unique 2006 models, and that's not saying much, imo.
Edited by ocnblu
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I like Mercury and I'm one of those people they were talking about in the article that would buy a Mercury over a Ford because it's something different. Is it based heavily on the Ford? Sure, but the Ford also doesn't have HID and LED lights, brushed aluminum trim, satin waterfall grilles, and other upscale features. The Mariner is much better looking than the Escape, and the Montego looks more upscale than the Five Hundred. The reason Mercury was doing so bad in the 90s is because 1) the marketing was non-existent (when was the last time you saw a Mercury commercial before the revival?) and 2) the differentiation between vehicles was even less than it is now. Just look at the Tracer and the Topaz. Mercury also had the connotation of being an old fart brand, something that it is working hard to shake off today. It's funny that Jac Nasser was wanting to give Mercury the axe...he's the one that blew Lincoln-Mercury's development funds on acquiring the PAG brands. Hence why Lincoln and Mercury have been starving for product until recently. Despite all the naysayers, I think Mercury is coming around. My grandpa bought a 2005 Grand Marquis Premier last August and another younger family member is looking at a Mariner. 20% of Mercurys sales today are conquest sales from an import brand. Mercury has a hybrid and will be getting another one in the next couple years. There's no reason to kill Mercury anymore...it would be suicidal for Ford's image.
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Mercury is a trim level. thats precisely WHY its kept around. It hs its own brand identity and fanbase and demographic that is different from ford, and all they have to do is change a few parts/trim pieces. If that isnt brilliant marketing and production I dont know what is. Why differentiate and spend much needed cash when the present product is selling as it is? Now if MErcury was down to 10k units/year instead of lcose to 200k, then I might suggest drastic action, but its selling quite well for a trim level.
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Still, some analysts would think its time to put Mercury to sleep.

"For the company as a whole, it's definitely the right thing to do," said Joe Langley, an analyst with CSM Worldwide in Farmington Hills. "As much as they have tried over the years, it still comes across as a rebadge."

[post="49128"]<{POST_SNAPBACK}>[/post]


This guy has no idea what he's talking about. If any brand needs dumping, its Lincoln. Rather, don't dump Lincoln, but further amalgamate it into Mercury.

Volume, sales, and product are clearly on the Mercury side of the equation as Lincoln only sells one vehicle that the public has any desire for (Navigator).

I think a smarter strategy would be to focus more on the Mercury portfolio, giving its lineup more distinction from platforms shared with Ford while keeping a Lincoln lineup tight with one SUV and one car - the Navigator and a Town Car successor, say, named Continental that would be far more appealing than a Town Car is today.

LS is a waste of time.
Aviator is a waste of time.
Mark LT is a waste of time.
Zephyr is a waste of time.
4/6 of Lincoln is a waste of time.

Not worrying about a bunch of pointless models allows Lincoln/Mercury to concentrate on making a fabulous two products.
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I think a smarter strategy would be to focus more on the Mercury portfolio, giving its lineup more distinction from platforms shared with Ford while keeping a Lincoln lineup tight with one SUV and one car - the Navigator and a Town Car successor, say, named Continental that would be far more appealing than a Town Car is today.

[post="49133"]<{POST_SNAPBACK}>[/post]

Good idea, get Lincoln back to the way it was in the 1960's.
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Whoa... :o
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Mercury should just tighten it's image a bit. It seems that it wants to have more of a European flair than it's Ford counterparts. With a little effort, these cars can be much more than obvious rebadges and carve out a real niche.
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Well, that's a first.  Someone that favor killing the luxury brand for a no meaning, badge engineered brand.

[post="49241"]<{POST_SNAPBACK}>[/post]


I wouldn't feel that way if Lincoln hasn't been aimlessly adrift in the Twilight Zone for the better part of a decade.

Anyway, as I said (and you quoted), trimming Lincoln down to two or three really focused world-class products would make alot more sense than some balls-out Cadillacesque attempt at reviving a brand that has more or less lost all meaning to the majority of people. I for one am sick of seeing the Mark IX, Continental, and Aviator concept on the turntables and the Zephyr and Mark LT in the lots.
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Well, that's a first.  Someone that favor killing the luxury brand for a no meaning, badge engineered brand. Mercury shoud be dumped with all their marketing and product development money going to rebuilding Linciln into a world class luxury brand.  But, that won't happen as long as Mercury is in the picture.  Hard to argue with rational logic.

[post="49241"]<{POST_SNAPBACK}>[/post]



Seems everyone has become experts when the subject is the auto biz. Anybody with a computer, internet access and the latest copy of Motor Trend can rectify any problems that the auto industry might have.

Seems some forget that there are some around here where this industry is not just a hobby and have access to data and people. Edited by evok
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Agreeing with AH-HA...I find it disappointing Fields chose to keep Mercury around. Again, resources would be better diverted towards developing Lincoln. I believe Fomoco has proved itself time and time again that the company cannot create a brand image for Mercury. Look at this "reinvigoration" - a bunch of rebadges? Elena Ford seemed to have alot more in mind for the brand when she was on board....I remember reading tales of "increased power" and "unique interiors." As Bill Lumbergh would say, "Yeeeeeaaah." Sure the brand is profitable (its basically a rebadge with higher prices), sure you've got the volume, but what about the long-term effects? What about 3 or 4 years from now? I just can't see them cutting it without an image. And what about Lincoln? Fomoco has too limited of resources and too many mouths too feed. Lincoln at least HAD an image in some points of time...this is the brand worth saving. But as a result of Mercury's existence, Lincoln is relegated to a lineup of guised-up Fords....with the amount of differentiation Elena Ford promised for Mercury. To this day, Ford should have stuck with the Lincoln 4/6/8 program proposed by Reitzle. Mercury should have been phased out slowly to appease the "volume" issue. I have a feeling this decision is going to bite Ford in the arse a few years down the road...
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The way I see it is that if Mercury dies, so will Lincoln unless it undergoes a major revamp, like Cadillac. No Lincoln dealer exists by itself. To my knowing, all Lincoln dealers are split as Lincoln-Mercury dealers because neither brand can get enough buyers to open up a straight Lincoln or straight Mercury dealership. Mercury must stay alive. So must Lincoln. And both should undergo great facelifts and redesigns. Keep this, end that, and change it all. Mustang-based Cougar really is necessary. A really nice LS is too. Then cross out the Mark LT.. It's not necessary! There's is so much work to do here that it's not even funny.
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And you don;t think Mercury has been an aimless, pointless brand?  I think any brand can recover with phenominal product and investment, but I haven't and don't see that happening for Mercury or Lincoln for that matter.  Lincoln once had a vibrant future when Reitzle was there, but Ford wouldn't let him make that happen.  Mercury, like it has been for years, will continue to be little more than a glorified Ford.

[post="49305"]<{POST_SNAPBACK}>[/post]


I don't disagree with you and I personally would love to see Lincoln succeed with good products again, something I alluded to with the concept car tease show we've all been witness to for the past few years.

IMO, Lincoln's last glimmer of hope came in the late 90s when the Town Car, LS, and Navigator all hit the roads - those were cars that in one form or another could've helped turn the tide. However, its sadly clear that Ford isn't really interested in giving Lincoln some real product. Again, I look to the beautiful Continental concept and Mark IX and see only disappointment in the form the the Mark LT 'concept' being brought to life.

If Ford is hell-bent on being cheap, then I can't see much alternative to - again - trimming Lincoln to two or three great models and concentrating on Lincoln-Mercury as one sales and product entity.
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See, Mercury serves a niche. There are people who would never consider a Ford who would consider a Mercury. Call them rebadges all you want; the new ones really aren't any more than Buicks and Pontiacs are. I like the more upscale-looking and cosmopolitan styling of the Mercury versions. Ford is just too...blue collar and middle America for my tastes. As long as Mercury is making money for Ford and providing traffic to Lincoln-Mercury dealerships then its purpose is being fulfilled, isn't it? GMC doesn't make sense from a logical perspective, but it would cause more problems to phase it out than to keep it as a minimal rebadge. Such is the case for Mercury.
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Mercury can be made a viable brand, yes they have been too close too Ford in image at times, but that can change. To me it makes perfect sense, Mercury is the next step towards Lincoln. A 1-2-3 punch. I would even like to see the return of Mercury Pickups and a version of the Mustang. Ford: starting point Mercury: moving up Lincoln: ulitimate
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I don't know the date of this...but it is of interest.



JY&A Consulting
http://jyanet.com/consulting

Redefining Mercury
Mercury is going through a serious rebranding and next month, we'll learn just how serious the division was. While we weren't involved, we have a few thoughts that we're freely volunteering

Jack Yan
Jack Yan is founder and CEO of Jack Yan & Associates and president of JY&A Consulting. This paper was authored with JY&A Consulting staff.

FOR most of my lifetime, Mercurys have been rebadged Fords. There have been exceptions over the years as Ford Motor tried to forge a new direction for the division, although it has never really forged a new identity per se, until last month.
Car buffs could tell you how the Mercury Zephyr was a pricier Ford Fairmont with quad headlamps. I still remember 'The shape you want to be in' as Mercury pushed a sporting edge with the LN7, Capri and Cougar XR-7 in the 1980s. To help boost Lincoln–Mercury sales, Ford introduced a new brand, Merkur, importing Sierras and Scorpios from its Köln works. (At one point, Brazilian Sierra imports were considered.) But Merkur didn't really follow the rules have in branding. Unlike Acura, the brand soon disappeared.
There were signs of a renaissance when the sign of the cat began reappearing a few years ago. Mercury reintroduced the Cougar as a Mondeo-based coupé to fight the likes of the Toyota Celica. But it was recently announced that along with the Lincoln Continental—a nameplate that has been with us since before World War II—the Cougar would disappear.
Mercury was back to where it was—no, worse than where it was: pricier Fords with probably its smallest product range, ever.
It might seem that the division would go the way of Plymouth but last month Ford announced that Darrell Behmer would be the division's first bespoke design chief. Additionally, there would be an identity programme, to be knocked out by brand guru Janet Klug (vice-president, global marketing), Elena Ford (brand manager) and Ann Belec (general marketing manager, Lincoln–Mercury), plus a cross-functional team. We hope the dealers will have a say.
Klug told Automotive News that Mercury was important for volume terms with core products such as Grand Marquis, Mountaineer and Sable. There is also the Grand Marquis-based Marauder on the way for the 2003 model year.
At the moment, Mercury sits uncomfortably in the Premier Automotive Group, which includes Ford's European brands Volvo, Land Rover, Aston Martin and Jaguar. Arguably it can't easily decide whether it's mass-market or specialty, much like Mazda. Klug theorized that it could be a premium brand like Volkswagen. There's also an underlying impression there that an American brand isn't good enough for PAG unless it's top of the tree like Lincoln. We think it'll be in PAG, but we don't think it needs to.
Of course, CAP can't replace the think-tank that Klug had assembled, nor can we address something as grand as an identity programme in one short editorial. However, we do know that when Mercury has talked branding before, the results have fallen short. It lent weight to false impression that branding is about slapping on a new coat of paint to fool the consumer. Instead, it goes far deeper.
Mercury needs a cultural shift, which has already begun. Ford knows that the products not only need to look different, but that the division needs to be different in processes and culture. It can lead up to the same quality and safety programmes like Pascar, but every contact Mercury has with its audience, and that includes its internal team, must reflect a new attitude. Just what that attitude is will be kept close to Klug and her team.
It's going to be an effort to distil the essence of Mercury when for a generation—certainly since the days of the original Cougar and the sign of the cat used by Kenyon & Eckhardt—it has lacked it. It has been a slave to Ford platforms and models. However, Klug, who oversaw the US marketing launch of the Focus and led the 'No Boundaries' campaign for Ford's SUVs, seems particularly qualified for the task.
Assuming that internally, Mercury begins the path to get to "the shape it wants to be in", there is potential for some exciting new products.
Over the last 10 years, we've had a few thoughts for the division, given the brands in America today. And Mercury has to be globally aware, thanks to the in-roads the imports have made.
We found ourselves considering a Volkswagen approach for Mercury in the early 1990s. Ford had access to the Mazda range, and the 1986 Tracer was an early example of taking the Mazda 323 and the body designed for the 1985 Asia–Pacific Ford Laser, building them in Mexico. It helped distinguish the Tracer from the 323 and, more importantly, the US Ford Escort. While that's not a branded solution, it could have been a simple starting-point for evolution that could have seen the 1996 Protégé-based Laser join the ranks. That five-door model was particularly well designed and Italianate, looking like a scaled-down Ghia Saguaro, one of Ford's more acclaimed show cars.
Mercury could well repeated it with the 626 by borrowing the Ford Telstar, or even one of the most beautiful Japanese cars ever made, the Eunos 500, leading neatly on to the Sable. Had the Tracer been built as a premium model rather than a budget one, we saw the brand being an American Lancia: luxurious but with mass-market appeal.
The analogy of "American Lancia" still isn't too bad. Lancia is made up of premium sedans—remember that Europeans haven't gone as SUV-crazy as Americans—based on Fiat platforms. The brand has built its latest offerings around its strongest period, with models such as the Thesis evoking an art-déco feel to their design.
There are enough permutations of Ford products to fit happily into such a brand. We considered the Ford Mondeo Metrostar, essentially the European Mondeo with a formal grille. A quality product like that could fit just below the larger Sable coming in a few years. Or, it could be given a Mountaineer-style facelift. In any case, it would be something that Ford's North American operation doesn't have. It would set Mercury apart. And it would give Ford's US brands something to fight the ever-popular Volkswagen Passat and BMW 3-series with. Imported from Germany, it would be a quality response to very qualified competition: Mercury's answer to the luxury brands. Metrostar would be to Mercury what the Mk I Granada was to Ford of Europe.
In fact, the Mystique could have been that perfect 3-series rival, had it been marketed properly and had it been distinguishable from the Contour. Quality was not job one with it, either: I had sampled both the European and American models and there was something lacking with the latter.
Lancia had the HPE, in some ways a response to the successful Ford Capri. Why not take the Focus and give it the Capri treatment for the Mercury division as a speciality coupé with a practical edge? The front windshield and most of the structural points of the Focus could be carried over. Put in V6s: Capri to Focus as Mountaineer to Explorer. Ford of Europe could sell it across the Atlantic: a 15-month, $300 million investment that could be recouped, even as a niche product, because it faces very little competition apart from the 2005 Golf GTI.
What about pairing the Australian rear-wheel-drive EA sedans with Mercury? The next Ford Falcon and Fairmont might not have the length that Americans demand but the interior room and width are Grand Marquis-beating. They are refined and certainly more advanced than Mercury's current flagship, even if they are essentially very rugged cars, built on a 1970s separate chassis harking back to the days of Lee Iacocca and Hal Sperlich.
With its culture sorted, Mercury could have a range of cars that are distinctive to America, based on very little outlay, thanks to Ford making use of its global intranet, cheaply and rapidly bringing products to market.
The roots of a strong brand are there. Mercury could make a great asset from a "premium mass appeal" positioning. Better yet, Mercury should be the premium American answer to the imports. Nothing else in America can jump to that position as rapidly. Buick is too busy being American (fair enough); Chrysler is adjusting from being premium to being everyday (thanks to the absorption of Plymouth products); Lincoln is 'American luxury' and should stay that way.

Mercury Capri V6 rival to Volkswagen Golf. To keep premium position, do not add in four-or five-door models. Sell it in other markets as the Ford Capri. The larger engine is important, given Mercury's original positioning in 1939 with V8s—something carried through today with the Mountaineer


Mercury Mystique/Metrostar

Rival to Volkswagen Passat, Mercedes-Benz C, BMW 3-series, in a sector generally untouched by Ford and GM; only Chrysler's disappointing Sebring and Stratus are of a similar size


Mercury Marquis

Forget the DE platform: rear-wheel-drive sedan based on Australian Ford E-sector models (Falcon, Fairmont), taking on Buick Le Sabre, Chrysler's 300M replacement, Pontiac Bonneville; possibly it could do battle with the BMW 5-series and Mercedes E, but making the point with cubic inches and horsepower. Remember, the Aussies also have a five-metre-long wagon and America hasn't seen a new one of these since the last Chevrolet Caprice. Take that, BMW 5-series Touring and Mercedes E-class T-Model!


Mercury Grand Marquis

Keeping law enforcement happy: retain this model but change its sheetmetal to separate it from the Ford Crown Victoria, or adopt stretched EAs


Mercury Mountaineer

Since SUV buyers do not (yet) distinguish models as much as automobile buyers (give it another four years), keep this model parallel to Explorer

Mercury Villager Replace Nissan-based model by introducing US-end development programme with future Galaxy in Europe, or consider Mazda as partner



Will it work? We're only speculating our dream scenario developed over a decade, without any insight into the way Lincoln–Mercury is run. Mercury has had to come up with a proper identity with its advocates and cross-functional teams in two months. It'll have to sell it to senior executives internally before the announcement and give dealers a preview—that alone is going to be one tough call because frankly, we don't think it's enough time. (Even if Mercury were a regional player in the tri-state area, we feel that two months is going to be an uphill battle for a proper identity programme and rebranding.)
Then there'll be a multi-million-dollar rollout, possibly reintroducing the Roman god symbol and taking us back to the 1940s and 1950s—but how much will it mean to a 2000s audience? Ford's the one doing retro (the daft Living Legends programme), so by right Mercury should try to signal to us, since it won't have as ageing a US line-up as the blue oval by 2005 if we had our way, that it's thrusting toward the future, calming dealers.
It'll be interesting to see whether there are any parallels in Mercury's March announcement. Watch this space. •
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The Mystique a 3-Series fighter? Thats freaking awesome. That could be the most funny non-funny thing I have ever heard. I just thought of something, I haven't seen a Mystique in a long time. I see a few Contours from time to time, but thats it.
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I liked the aritcle alot, and agree with it. If Mercury acutally implemented that plan fully, they wouldn't be in bad shape right now.
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I'm with Fly... why keep a brand that ownes 100% of many of its respective markets. BOF-loving Luxury car fans, Limousine Companies and Proffesional cars are no reaosn to keep a brand alive. Just kill it and let's bring back the Turnpike Cruiser as a unibody FWD, 6-cylinder midsize crossover SUV already. The Cougar is too exciting and aspirational for Mercury just cut down their lineup to the T.P.C., Mountaner and Milan.
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Oh, BTW: [/sarcasm]
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I'm with Fly... why keep a brand that ownes 100% of many of its  respective markets. BOF-loving Luxury car fans, Limousine Companies and Proffesional cars are no reaosn to keep a brand alive.

[post="49494"]<{POST_SNAPBACK}>[/post]


Do you, like, read before you post anymore?

I think a smarter strategy would be to focus more on the Mercury portfolio, giving its lineup more distinction from platforms shared with Ford while keeping a Lincoln lineup tight with one SUV and one car - the Navigator and a Town Car successor, say, named Continental that would be far more appealing than a Town Car is today.

[post="49133"]<{POST_SNAPBACK}>[/post]


As a retail vehicle, the Town Car is nothing impressive. Give it a V8, RWD, and a Continental-esque body with a coupe/convertible option and now you've got something everyone besides loyalists and fleets-who-buy-with-heavy-discounts can enjoy.
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While I like your Continental idea the two-vehicle Lincoln lineup would be suicide. (no pun intended) Try telling Cadillac they shuld only sell the DTS and Escalade. :huh: My favorite Lincoln of all time BTW is a 1961 Continental HT. Clean, elegant, timeless!
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