Not long ago here on Autoblog we wondered, what exactly is the point of the Mercury brand? As it turns out, dealers have nearly the same question, and they aren't getting any clear, compelling answers. At the Chicago Auto Show, Ford's Group Vice President Jim Farley said "Its role is changing, but we're not going to compromise Mercury." Around the Detroit Auto Show, CEO Alan Mulally said Ford remains committed to Mercury. Of course, Mulally also said Jaguar was part of The Way Forward -- no one knew that he meant it was the way forward for Tata.

There is only one problem with Ford's statements of support: there's no new product in the Mercury pipeline (the upcoming hybrid Milan doesn't count as a new piece of original product), and no one at Ford is giving any indication of when there will be. A huge amount of elbow grease is being expended to polish the Ford brand, and after that, Lincoln is taking up all the space on a second stage. It's clear that Ford would rather sell Lincolns than Mercurys. Last year, Mercury sales dropped almost 7 percent, while Lincoln sales rose more than 9 percent. Still, Lincoln sold 37,000 fewer cars than Mercury.

But all of this, understandably, has dealers wondering what's really going to happen with Mercury. People who buy Mercurys want Mercurys, with its "independent-minded" image and greater percentage of female buyers "very loyal to the brand." Ford can't afford to shed Mercury sales while it works to shepherd Lincoln to the top of the heap. Yet until Ford reveals what it's going to do with the house of the Grand Marquis -- indeed, that it's going to do anything at all -- then one can only assume that brand interest will suffer... and with it, sales.

[Source: Bloomberg]