Bloomberg, citing unnamed sources within the company, says that Ford Motor Co. is planning to shut down its Mercury brand.
It's clearly no done deal yet; the plan, which hasn't been set into motion yet, is going to be presented in proposal form to company directors in July.
But Mercury has hardly been successful in recent years—sales have dropped 74 percent since 2000, and are at a small fraction of its 579,000 sales peak in 1978, again according to Bloomberg—and now it might be completely forgotten by all but those who pay close attention to cars and the industry, going to way of other shuttered domestic brands like Plymouth, Saturn, Oldsmobile, and Pontiac. Currently, the brand only accounts for about 1.9 percent of the company's global sales, and the massive overhead of keeping a brand running likely means there's not much money being made on the Mercury.
Over the years, Ford has vacillated about what, exactly, should be Mercury's focus. It's cycled from a different-flavored, vaguely glitzy step-up brand from Ford prior to the 1970s, to a sporty Euro-fighter in the late 1980s, to a seller of barely different (and, some thought, cosmetically inferior) versions of Ford-brand vehicles in the '90s. In recent years, Ford seemed to be setting a more distinct tone for Mercury with materials and trims, but even that wasn't enough, apparently, to stoke sales. There had even been very recent rumblings about making Mercury Ford's tech-focused brand, giving it first dibs for special apps for the company's Sync system, for instance.
All the while, Mercury's product portfolio was starved. There are only four vehicles in the lineup, and two of them are slated to be discontinued. The 2012 Mercury Tracer, which was to be based on the Ford Focus and expected to be previewed at the New York auto show this April, didn't show up there and set off some speculation about whether Ford might be realigning Mercury yet again.
2010 Mercury Milan HybridEnlarge Photo