Amid declining sales and much speculation, another historic American auto brand is biting the dust: Ford announced this afternoon that the automaker is shutting down its 71-year-old Mercury brand to focus more on its mass market Ford models and high-end Lincoln brand.
"As we look at the Mercury brand, it has really served us well in the past and we are very proud of its history, but we are now looking forward and really focusing on continuing to grow that Ford brand and, at the same time, accelerate Lincoln," Mark Fields, Ford executive vice president and Americas president, said this afternoon.
Fields said the company would end production of Mercury vehicles in the fourth quarter of the year. No jobs would be cut as result of the brand's closure; Mercury plant workers, Fields said, would be "redeployed" to the manufacturing of Lincoln models. The company plans to "expand and enhance" the Lincoln lineup, he said.
Ford's announcement comes months after fellow American automaker General Motors said it was shutting down its Hummer brand after failing to sell it to another company. Last year, GM announced it was cutting its Saturn and Pontiac brands.
Ford, unlike GM, managed to weather the financial crisis without a bailout from the federal government, but its decision to cut Mercury came as little surprise to auto industry analysts.
"This was overdue. This isn't any different from GM (General Motors) cancelling Pontiac," said Center for Automotive Research chief economist Sean McAlinden. "These names no longer mean anything to the public under age 60 or 65."
Ford created Mercury in 1939 as an upscale alternative to the Ford brand that was less expensive than Lincoln. But critics say the brand, which now consists of just four different models, has lost its way over the years by failing to differentiate itself enough from Ford cars. Some ABCNews.com readers agree with that assessment, while others are loyal to the brand. Here's what they had to say:
"I would miss it! My Dad had a '53, '56, '57. Friends had a '50 Customized Coupe. I had many dates in the '53 and the '56, including the senior prom and graduation night, which was a Montclair -- yellow and black with yellow real leather. It would outrun the Chevs."
"In the days when Mercury was a distinct line from Ford and it represented a clear difference and choice from the standard line offered by Ford, it would have constituted a real loss. However, today Mercury (is) much like Olds, Buick, Pontiac and Chevrolet; the lines and distinction between the makes became too homogenized to make much sense to continue. In an effort to build 'different' cars on the same platforms to become more profitable, the real business model for having a separate mark disappeared."
-John Bryfonski, Wilton, New York
"Yes, I will miss it and I feel they will reduce their potential gains in the future. Mercury is not failing because of low sales, it is failing because of neglect. With a line up of only four cars, what else would one expect."
-Michael Drosos, Des Plains, Illinois