• Jan 20, 2007
How's this for responsive? The very day our post questioning the point of Mercury went live, we got a call from Lincoln/Mercury's PR department, eager to elucidate their plans to us. Rest assured that there are machinations underway to realign product, marketing, features, and pricing to reconnect with customers. Shoring up the Ford brand is priority numero uno, and that's underway. The other brands under the Ford tent are also hard at work, climbing the walls of the pit.

More after the jump.

Looking at the growth shown in the entry-level luxury market, the Lincoln and Mercury brands will be flipped volume-wise. Whereas Mercury was always the higher-volume seller of the two brands, it will now become more of a niche brand. Lincoln will be getting a push for sales volume and while Lincoln is not directly targeting the segment leaders in the luxury market, its offerings are solid performers in their respective classes and won't embarass themselves. Conversely, they run the risk of not standing out, but performance isn't the only area where you can leave an impression.

The idea going forward is to have Lincoln compete in the various segments for buyers looking to reward themselves. As crazy as it sounds, some people would rather have sybaritic rewards instead of all out barnstorming. To that end, Lincoln is looking to be a standout with high levels of luxury and equipment in its vehicles. The MKR concept vehicle shown in Detroit is an embodiement of where Lincoln styling will go. We may not see that very car in production, but it's a document of cues and themes that will spread across the range. Love it or hate it, nobody will deny that you will identify it as a Lincoln from a mile away. That instant recognition will be applied to all Lincolns. It'll be great to see the Town Car go from blobby to bold.

Lincoln once was, and to a degree still is, the "Town Car" marque, but that distinction is not what the future of the brand is staked on. To be sure, the Town Car is not going away, it's arguably the quintessential American luxury car. Models like the MKX, MKZ, and MKS are going to attract new clientele while the Town Car continues to satisfy its buyers. The key is to bring new owners to the fold while retaining current customers. There are Lincolns available in more segments now; from entry-level C-segment sedans all the way up to the large and in charge Navigator. We're seeing a push toward offering more vehicles and more modern vehicles at that, so the planned increase in sales volume makes sense. Now all they have to do is sell it -- we'll keep a sharp eye on the advertising efforts. At this point, execution of the marketing plan will make or break Lincoln. Dwayne Wade better bring his A-game.

With Lincoln taking the baton for sales, Mercury is to take on a more unique identity. The common dope on the brand right now is that Mercury is a stepping stone between Ford and Lincoln. Dispel that notion, as that's not the plan. Mercury is intended to attract different customers than either Ford or Lincoln. There will be further design distinction of Mercury vehicles, but we wouldn't hold our breath for much more than fascias and equipment in the near future. There eventually could be European Fords in the Mercury showroom, and sheetmetal differences between the brands may evolve to the point where greenhouses and doors are not shared between platform mates.

As has been noted, Mercury attracts a higher percentage of female buyers -- almost a third more than Ford. Minority buyers are also doubly attracted to Mercury products than Ford. With conquest rates in the 40-percent range, Mercury appears to be successfully targeting savvy folks who want something a little different. The folks that Mercury thinks are target customers aren't cross-shopping Ford brands, but rather comparing Mercury to offerings from Japanese and European makes. The mind immediately jumps to our favorite vehicles from those places; most are capable of some zooty performance. Cars like the Altima, 3-series, and Accord coupes. Like Lincoln, Mercury isn't looking to flatten the competition with sheer performance numbers. They want to win buyers by offering appealing designs with a high level of quality and features. Again, performance will be "adequate", but Mercury thinks offering AWD across virtually the entire fleet, interior packaging and features like an award-winning Nav system and the newly debuted infotainment toy, Sync, will be what really excites buyers. Not such a bad gamble, as we spend a lot more time sitting in traffic than we do flexing any underhood muscle. Being entertained during gridlock is pretty important, and a comfy interior makes the minutes tick by less painfully.

One thing we can expect to see from Ford as a whole is a consolidation of platforms and product development across their worldwide divisions. We're betting Dearborn is taking a long look at what Saturn's been up to and thinking hard about emulating that strategy. This bodes well for quelling the hue and cry for the Euro platforms coming stateside. No decisions on that have been made, but rest assured, they're looking at it. Ford's hot to share platforms more widely, so they're going to be picking out the best of what they've got worldwide, and trotting what's left off into the sunset. Although we know that there's a love among enthusiasts for V8 powerplants driving the rear wheels, we wouldn't hold our breath. While we might think it'd be a surefire hit, it'd likely just cause a stir, and make a lot of people look on in admiration, while they ponied up the cash for something else. We're a small (yet eminently vocal) minority. The one question we have yet to get answered, and we know its of utmost importance to you, dear readers, is whether they'll make a return to the old logo, or stick with the "waterfall." We've got a call in, and we'll keep calling Mercury every hour on the hour until they talk. Must be some kind of embargo.


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  • 31 Comments
      Thomas C.
      • 8 Years Ago
      I like the Mercury brand i like all there vehicles much better than the Ford cousin and that 2008 Mariner looks great i would much sooner walk into a Mercury Dealership and purchase a Mercury vehicle rather than a Ford or Lincoln although there all nice i just like the Mercury styling best and 08 Mariner Tribute and Escape dont really Similar much except around the windows and doors .... And i wish Lincoln Mercury the best of luck
      • 8 Years Ago
      It is unbelieveable that such a large car division did not have a clear strategy & mission statement. I am glad they are working on it.
      The waterfall logo has to GO! I would suggest they work on designing a new 'M' for the exterior trunk & grill branding and use the Mercury god on the interior, wheel centers, etc.
      • 8 Years Ago
      EMBLEMS____________
      That waterfall is someone's idea of a stylized M.
      The original and traditional emblem was --the head of the god Mercury, with a helmet? -- later a crest? -- sometimes a big M? -- I checked out the first one, the '39, and I dont see no stinkin' emblem.
      Part of the problem is that, before it became a retirement car, Mercury was a fashion car, changing themes a lot over the years.
      I would go to a Mercury head in relief on red cloisone, and get rid of the waterfall, which looks like hair clippers.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Lincoln [will] compete in the various segments for buyers looking to reward themselves... Lincoln is looking to be a standout with high levels of luxury and equipment in its vehicles.

      Heard second-hand, this doesn't seem like a shift in the game plan. Sounds like Lincoln intends to continue being the "high-value" luxury brand, offering lots of "stuff" in packages priced (and, thus, engineered) less-than-the-brand-names. Unless their styling gets really interesting, I don't see how this will turn Lincoln around.

      Of course, Lexus' success was based on a similar formula, so maybe I'm being pessimistic. But it's discouraging that the PR doesn't even mention vehicle dynamics--they seem uninterested in rising to the challenge posed by Cadillac, much less BMW.
      • 8 Years Ago
      If the above posting is accurate, it offers some pretty big news: Lincoln rather than Mercury will henceforth be the division's volume brand.

      That's a huge decision, because it effectively announces that Ford has given up on Mercury as a major brand. However, instead of discontinuing Mercury outright, it sounds like they will keep it on life support with a handful of badge-engineered Fords.

      This makes some sense. Mercury would take a huge investment to revive, and one could argue that such a strategy isn't cost effective given that Ford's other premium brands (Mazda and Volvo) show much more promise.

      The question of the hour would seem to be whether Lincoln's sales can be built sufficiently to where they can carry the division. Based on the quality of recent introductions and concept cars, I'm skeptical. This may very well be the beginning of the end for Lincoln as well.
      • 8 Years Ago
      QUOTE="The one question we have yet to get answered, and we know its of utmost importance to you, dear readers, is whether they'll make a return to the old logo, or stick with the "waterfall." We've got a call in, and we'll keep calling Mercury every hour on the hour until they talk. Must be some kind of embargo."


      Fellas, are you really contacting Mercury about this point? If so, please add my name to the complaint list.

      I don't know what the hell Ford thinks the "Waterfall" means, but it has to be the most worthless icon/emblem/logo in the entire auto-industry. It stands for nothing, means nothing, alludes to absolutely nothing. Years ago, Mercury had the Roman God-Head of Mercury and it was cool. The updated version on the Marauder was nice too!

      In times bast we had, "The Big M" from the 50s/60s and then into te 70s the "Sign of the Cat" which was adopted by the entire division and was really nothing more than a Cougar badge.

      Why can't Ford get its act together and come up with a real emblem for the brand, one that has some style and a bit of an upmarket feel to it?

      And while they're at it, please as the boys in Dearborn to get to that "distinctiveness" they've mentioned in your report, sooner rather than later. Mercury might not add up to a whole hell of a lot, but they deserve their own design language and style beyond the "waterfall grille" and such treaatments.

      So next time you conctact them and cal them "every hour on the hour" -- please add my comments as well, okay?
      • 8 Years Ago
      I just realized that Ford no longer sells Mercury's here in Canada. I don't even recall them leaving.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Trust me, we won't see a real strategy change 'till 2011. Over the next few years, they need a real powerful marketing campaign, rather than the regional-looking nonsense with 'smart women' saying we should add Mercury to our search. A hot rear-drive sedan with a different look and a gorgeous 7 seat crossover to replace the Mountaineer are core products.

      DO IT!
      • 8 Years Ago
      The only reason that Ford is keeping the Mercury name is that it would cost them to much to pay off the lawsuits from their dealer network if they got rid of it. Essentially, they just laid out a long-term plan to slowly move the Mercury volume (such as it is) over to the Lincoln brand. Then once Lincoln is selling like 80% of the the volume in the Lincoln-Mercury dealerships they will be able to pull the plug on Mercury without putting a big hole in their dealer network.

      Really - they need to either let it die or give it a different set of offerings than ust putting different grills on the Fords. The fact that Mercury is strictly a badge-engineered brand makes it pretty clear that Ford has no long-term interest in building it up again. They could instead euthanize it like GM did with Olds and save a lot of redundant overhead.

      From the info their own PR people gave Autoblog, it's pretty clear which direction they have chosen. Good night, Mercury.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Mercury Messenger concept. Put it on a Mustang platform and you've got a seller. I think that the vehicle is different enough that it won't cannabalize sales from the Mustang. I'd never buy a Mustang, but I would buy a Messenger if it had similar drivetrain options to the Mustang.

      Make them do it.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Mercury better come out with a sporter range of cars
      • 8 Years Ago
      Heard all of this before. Mercury will still continue to rot and die!!!! There never has been and never will be a purpose for Mercury. They should kill it and make if a Ford trim.
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