And what, exactly, is the point of Mercury?

After last week's flurry of news from Detroit, we're realizing that little was heard from Mercury. Parent Ford certainly had some introductions and unveilings, but nothing from across the corporate hall. It makes us wonder whether the Mercury brand is going to completely wither and die, or if Ford's got some surprises left. There really seems to be little point to the brand. There are no Mercury-specific models like there once were ( Cougar, Villager, etc.) and really nothing particularly compelling for sale. Perhaps giving Mercury a segment to fill would drive the brand.

More armchair quarterbacking after the jump

[Source: Detroit News]

How about nixing the Fusion and making the Milan the place to go for your C-segment car? The MKZ should hang around to fill the lux niche. The Milan is arguably more handsome than the Fusion, and definitely has a nicer interior. That'd at least give people one reason to enter the Mercury store. Mercury's game plan is to be the bridge between Ford and Lincoln; what that means for now is badge-engineering by way of fascias and accoutrement.

Once the Way Forward becomes a clear path, we may see the sun rise on new and distinctive Mercurys. Part of what's eating at Alan Mulally is that Ford globally is about more than the blue oval. There are several different branches on the family tree worldwide, each with distinct product. This stratification leads directly to us US drivers acting like Beatlemania-posessed teenage girls. Ga-ga over the Euro offerings; pressed up against the fence, trying to get at the Mondeo or Focus. Mulally is keen to bring Ford's worldwide operations closer together, and acknowledges that we deserve fewer Emperor's New Clothes "remakes," and more soul-stirring machinery.

There are different design themes between Ford in the US and Ford abroad. Part of merging and streamlining global operations will be a convergence of design. That doesn't mean F-Series trucks that look like the Transit, but it will mean finding some common themes that make Fords recognizeable worldwide. May we suggest, if they're hot to bring the European product over to the Colonies, making Mercury the sole agent for those uniquely-accented Fords? Spiffy interiors and different faces only go so far.

Letting Mercury be the sole outlet for something different than what's across town at the Ford lot would at least get some notice. There also exists an opportunity to punch-up the style coming out of Mercury. Style is largely a misnomer for the brand right now. The Grand Marquis has all the style of a pair of orthopedic shoes. Sure, it's a nice enough car; but there's not a line on the flanks that appeals to anyone under 70 that's not a cop or cabdriver. The Montego is even more ho-hum than its Ford Five Hundred sister. Only the Milan and the Mountaineer have some semblance of uniqueness to them, and they're far more handsome than their Ford counterparts. How about building on that? The Norelco grille is classier than the "three bar."

Let's not go wild, but hopefully things will improve as Ford starts to get their act together. Currently lagging GM's turnaround, the business term for Ford's current state is: a mess. They are looking to replace or redesign 70-percent of their offerings across all their brands by 2010. Expect key vehicles to have more attention lavished on them. "Key" must denote the cars that the brand is being staked on. We'll be waiting to see that kind of commitment from the Blue Oval. We've seen desperate, confused moves so far. Whoops, we mean we've seen Ford "focusing on its strengths, rather than matching the competition one-to-one with vehicles." Hopefully Mercury can recall it's the Cougar, not the cower.

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