It is with more than a wee bit of sadness that my mates and I on Team Centennial at Centennial Leasing and Sales in Phoenix are bidding a fond farewell to the Mercury automobile.
After a run that lasted more than 70 years, the once-proud marque that once was the tiger-toothed-grill dream of many an American youth, had its plug pulled by Ford Motor Company, and will wind down its Mercury product line, according to widely reported sources, including Bloomberg News Agency.
As a lad in London, even before I came to "The Colonies," (just kidding), I could at times imagine hearing the deep-throated, roaring music of a "Merc" V8, toned-up as it were with some modestly-muted mufflers. Alas, far be it from the likes of me to know at that time that the brand, launched in 1939, would struggled as it has since the beginning of this millennium, with sales plummeting some 75%. Indeed, mummers of its closure have been out there for years.
Of course, we at Centennial's Phoenix vehicle sales and leasing headquarters were braced for the announcement, as we knew that only a puny 92,000-plus Mercury-badged vehicles were sold in 2009, though sales are up just a smidge this year.
According to one report, executives at Ford indeed are preparing a proposal to kill the brand, to be reviewed this summer. The two- to four-year wind-down would include the eventual transition of all Lincoln products -- currently sold alongside Mercury vehicles in distinct dealerships -- to Ford showrooms autel.
"You have to worry about Lincoln dealers if Mercury goes away," said John McElroy, host of the Autoline, a Detroit television program. "Dealers need that volume to sell, but they need cars to service, as well."
Fact it, Lincoln products, which share similar platforms, generate higher profits for the company. And curiously, many Mercury products have MSRPs close to -- or sometimes exactly the same as -- Ford equivalents. And, in the first quarter of 2010, the brand accounted for only a paltry 1.9% of Ford's total earnings.
While lagging sales are certainly to blame, the erosion of Mercury's identity played a large role, as well. With only four vehicles in Mercury showrooms -- all re-badged Ford models with few differentiating features -- Americans seem to have forgotten about it. The shut down of the Mercury brand gives notice that Ford's attempt to create a separate and unique experience for Lincoln was in vain.
And now, the obituaries and post-mortems are seemingly coming from every corner of the industry.
"Really, this is as much about Lincoln," said John Wolkonowicz, an auto analyst with IHS Global Insight. "They needed Mercury for Lincoln dealerships. Lincoln was never self sufficient and they wanted it separated from Ford. They are closing Mercury and essentially throwing in the towel for Lincoln at this point. It won't stand on its own."
Wolkonowicz said that while a shut down of Mercury was expected for years Autel maxiap ap100 Price, upcoming product changes within Ford mean that the brand's best-selling car for April, the Grand Marquis, will leave the market after the 2011 model year.
"The number one Mercury, the Grand Marquis, is going away," said Wolkonowicz."Once that's gone Mercury isn't worth having anymore. Without it there isn't a business case for the brand. Mercury as a whole hasn't been memorable in a long time."
Ford has already discontinued Mercury in Canada, and if it goes away entirely it would join several other venerable American brands that have been shuttered in the recent past, such as Pontiac, Oldsmobile and Plymouth. Mercury sales peaked in the late 1970s, but its heyday actually came earlier, in the 1950s and '60s, when the brand offered high-performance cars like the Comet Cyclone and Marauder.
Mercury was the creation of Edsel Ford, the son of Ford founder Henry Ford. Ford created Mercury from scratch, in an era where competitors like General Motors grew by acquiring other carmakers. "Edsel Ford is revered in the family and Mercury was his creation," Wolkonowicz told Bloomberg. "This is the end of an era."
And it strikes a melancholy note for many of at Centennial's car and truck leasing and sales center in Phoenix; even those of us from across the pond.Captain Centennial, whose real name is Monty Buckingham, is the longtime Public Information Officer for Team Centennial at Centennial Leasing and Sales in Phoenix, AZ.