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It’s official. Ford has announced that production of Mercury vehicles for retail customers will end on Sunday, October 10 this year. It’s not entirely the end of Merc manufacturing – vehicles will continue to roll off the assembly lines for a few more months, but they will be aimed strictly at fleet buyers – rental car companies, government agencies and the like.
But even as production winds down, there actually seems to be fewer deals to be had – including the loss of bonus cash offers – quite extraordinary, since sales of Mercury vehicles have spiked recently. In August, the brand sold 9,039 vehicles for the month, comprising 2,976 Mariner SUVs, 2013 Milan mid-size sedans, 651 Mountaineer SUVs and, get this, 3,399 Grand Marquis full-size sedans – proving that even on its deathbed the old body-on-frame rear drive mastadon is just as much a gravy boat now as it ever was.
Although production will be ending on Sunday, Mercury dealers will still be selling cars as long as inventory remains available. So if you fancy getting yourself one of the last examples of Ford’s original medium priced brand, better get your skates on. Here’s some of the offers currently being pedaled by dealers and good at least through Monday next week.
- 2010 Mercury Grand Marquis: 0% for 36 months, plus $1,000 bonus cash and two years of free maintenance, or $4,000 in total cash back .
- 2010 Mercury Mariner: 0% for 60 months and two years of free maintenance, or $2,000 in total cash back .
- 2010 Mercury Mountaineer: 0% for 36 months, plus $1,000 bonus cash and two years of free maintenance, or $3,000 in total cash back .
- 2010 Mercury Milan: 0% for 60 months and two years of free maintenance.
- 2011 Mercury Milan: 0% for 60 months, or $2,000 cash back.
- 2011 Mercury Mariner: 0% for 60 months, or $2,000 cash back
[Source: USA Today/Drive On]
Ford is looking to cut another 300 dealers as part of an effort to increase profitability. The move comes as part of a move to wind down its Mercury brand, and consolidate its sales network amid decreased demand for cars.
“The dealers are full partners in every decision the company makes,” said Jim Farley, Ford’s group vice president for global marketing, sales and service. “When you are trying to consolidate your network from 6,000 down to 3,000, the dealers are on your side, and they will help you participate in the consolidation.”
The elimination of Mercury will also put pressure on Lincoln dealers, as the two are often paired with one another. It’s unlikely that standalone Lincoln stores would be profitable enough to survive, leading many to expect their demise.
A new report detailing customer satisfaction in the auto industry has just been released, with domestic brands Lincoln-Mercury and Buick taking the top spots. The annual American Customer Satisfaction Index survey points to a slight decline overall in consumers’ satisfaction with their vehicles, but shows strong results for domestic automakers.
In total, the satisfaction index has dropped from 84 (out of 100) in 2009 to 82. The highest score, with a total of 89 points, is shared by Lincoln and the now defunct Mercury brand with a gain of 1 point over last year’s survey. Buick remain unchanged at 88 points.
In many ways these gains are also the result of losses by other automakers, with 14 of the 18 top brands declining.
Sharing the third position with 86 points are BMW (down 1 point), Mercedes-Benz (unchanged) and Cadillac (down 3 points).
The biggest gainer for 2010 is Nissan, climbing 4 points to 82 on the index. Big losers included Honda (off 4 points to 84), Chevrolet (off 3 points to 80) and Volkswagen (with the biggest loss of 5 points, down to 81).
Interestingly, despite Toyota’s recall woes, the company lost just 2 points down to 84, although the same issues are beleived to be responsible for the larger drop of 4 points for the Lexus brand, down to 84.
The ACSI survey is the result of 250 interviews per manufacturer with owners aged 18 to 84.
[Source: Automotive News]
Car and Driver’s campaign to “Save the Manuals” campaign is spreading, with Consumers Reports doing their part for the movement by compiling a comprehensive list of all new cars available with a manual gearbox.
A few years ago, you could find some real oddities with a stick shift – a BMW X5 for example. Now, the list is largely what you’d expect; compact pickups, economy cars, the occasional luxury sedan with sporting pretensions, and of course, performance cars.
But there is one totally-out-of-left-field choice on the list that stands out from the others; the Mercury Milan (though not the hybrid pictured above), which can be had with a stick like its Ford Fusion counterpart. Better act fast if you want one.
Hit the jump to see the full list of cars that will let you shift for yourself
[Source: Consumers Reports]
Five Lincoln concept cars, as well as one Mercury concept will go up for auction at RM’s Sports & Classics of Monterey on August 12th. The six concepts are being sold by Ford Motor Co. through RM Auctions, a well known auction house that regularly handles ultra high end vehicles. All vehicles, except the Lincoln Navicross and Mercury Messenger, can be driven, although it is illegal to drive them on public roads. All proceeds from the auction will benefit the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and The Children’s Center.
Gallery: Lincoln & Mercury Concept Vehicles
The taste of irony must be bitter for Ford Motor Co, as its dying Mercury division outsold Lincoln, Ford’s luxury division, in the month of June.
Mercury sales were up 26.2% compared to June, 2009, while Lincoln sales dropped 11% in that same time period. Leading the charge was the Mariner SUV, which reported a 37.5% percent increase in sales. However, the data did not cite whether fleet sales were included, as Mercury is tremendously popular among big fleet buyers like rental car agencies.
Ford canned the Mercury brand to focus its attention on its Lincoln brand, which is taking dead aim at Cadillac. Lincoln is expected to receive on onslaught of new product, starting with the redesigned MKX crossover this summer.
While Ford‘s decision to cut the Mercury brand from its lineup makes good business sense, the long term benefits come with a more immediate down side. In an increasingly competitive market, by eliminating the Mercury brand Ford is also potentially eliminating 92,299 sales.
According to Edmunds.com CEO Jeremy Anwyl, Ford should keep roughly two-thirds of Mercury customers. And as much as Ford would like to see those customers headed to Lincoln showrooms, they are more likely to downsize their aspirations and stick to the Blue Oval. Most Mercury customers already cross-shop with Ford branded vehicles.
Adding to the swing towards Ford and away from Lincoln is FoMoCo’s push to transform Lincoln into a true premium brand, market it as such and then build a reputation in the marketplace. That won’t be easy, as the folks at Cadillac will tell you. With a vastly improved offering of products, Cadillac still can’t seem to grab hold of traditional German sedan buyers.
Making Ford’s risk even bigger is the fact that Lincoln is already an insubstantial brand, selling roughly half as many units as Mercury. So far this year, Lincoln has managed just 37,444 in sales, compared to 52,997 for Cadillac and 90,098 for Lexus.
The plan says Ford CEO Alan Mulally is to do with Lincoln what the brand company has done with the Ford brand over the past few years. Initially that seems all but impossible as Lincoln models continue to ride of platforms created for Ford models and are in many ways just rebadged and gussied-up Fords. Then again, marketing can go a long way to change a brand’s perception and few automakers have achieved the marketing success that Ford has over the past several years, whether in regards to EcoBoost or the new Fiesta.
[Source: Automotive News]
In the wake of Ford‘s announcement that it is eliminating the Mercury brand after 72 years, existing franchises that peddle the division’s offerings – a total of 1,712 dealers in the U.S. (276 of which are exclusive Lincoln-Mercury stores), are being offered cash compensation. Production of all Mercury vehicles will end in the fourth quarter of this year, meaning that it’s likely there won’t be any 2011 models for dealers to sell.
Although, according to Ford, Mercury’s total market share stands at a 0.8 percent, some Mercury models, notably the old Grand Marquis were still highly profitable. According to Ford’s U.S. Sales Supremo; Ken Czubay, the dealer compensation package is based on a three year sales average of Mercury branded vehicles in relation to the percentage of total vehicle sales at each dealership.
“We feel the compensation we’re offering them is reasonable and fair,” said Mark Fields, Ford’s President of the Americas. “It goes beyond what the franchise agreements state and well beyond what our competitors have done in the marketplace.” Ford has also stated that on the parts side, it will let the existing Mercury franchises keep their parts inventory and pay 10 percent of the value on those parts. Therefore, if a dealer had invested $1 million in parts inventory, it gets to keep all those parts and Ford will issue a check for $100,000.
However some dealers feel they’ve gotten the short end of the stick. One, who’s been offered $200,000 based on sales his store generates through Mercury sales, says that it’s still not enough, especially considering he invested millions of dollars building a brand new showroom in the last three years. Another, who says he sells about 350 Mercury cars and trucks a year – generating $2 million in revenue, has been offered $500,000, but says that the compensation is not enough, considering the loss of sales the brand closure is likely to bring, at least in the short term. “My property is also likely to be now worth less,” he stated.
[Source: Automotive News]
Ford continues to work its marketing magic, directing focus away from the fact that its shutting-down the Mercury brand and putting the spotlight on a bright future for Lincoln. The Blue Oval has announced that by the end of this year production of Mercury models will cease, helping Ford reduce costs while and put more cash and engineering expertise into the Lincoln brand. For years Mercury has struggled, sitting half-way between the established “common-man” Ford brand and the quasi-luxury Lincoln brand. And with Lincoln still struggling to establish itself as a true luxury automaker, Mercury fell considerably short in this respect.
“Profitably growing Lincoln in North America is an important part of our One Ford plan,” said Alan Mulally, Ford president and CEO. “Our Ford brand is gaining momentum and winning customers around the world. Now, we are going to use the same laser focus to further strengthen Lincoln and deliver even more products luxury customers really want and value.”
As for the future of Lincoln, Ford has given a rather thorough look at just what to expect. First is the introduction of a new compact model, possibly inspired by the C Concept (above), but also likely based on the all-new Focus platform. Lincoln also aims to put the focus on fuel economy by offering EcoBoost engines in every model – including the next-generation Navigator full-size SUV.
In addition, Ford has announced it is developing new “Lincoln-exclusive” powertrains including an all-new V6 engine as well as new fuel-efficient transmissions (dual-clutch? 8-speed?).
Ford will look to build Lincoln into the most fuel efficient luxury brand, competing mostly with Cadillac and Lexus, delivering what it calls “fuel economy leadership” with each new model.
Official release after the jump:
Mercury, we hardly knew ye – as anything more than a place where re-badged Ford products could linger in obscurity, serving their purpose as rental cars and female-marketed A-to-B transportation. After 71 years, this model is no longer sustainable, and Automotive News reports that today, Mercury will be sent to the great garage in the sky, next to Saturn, Pontiac, Oldsmobile and Plymouth.
Mercury sales fell 74 percent from 2000 through 2009 and dropped 11 percent in May. “Sales had sunk too low to keep Mercury around,” John Wolkonowicz, an auto analyst with IHS Global Insight in Lexington, Mass, told Automotive News. “The volumes are now probably too small for it to be profitable.”
Key Mercury models like the Grand Marquis and Milan are set to end production at the end of 2010, leaving Mercury without two crucial products.
[Source: Automotive News]
The investigation involves 249,301 Fusion and Milan models from the 2010 model year where an accessory floor mat may entrap the accelerator pedal – in essence causing a sticking throttle. The problem occurs when the floor mat is placed on top of the existing carpet floor mat – something all automakers warn against. “We do not recommend stacking floor mats in any vehicle from any automaker,” said Ford spokesman Said Deep.
NHTSA commented in a statement that, “Any Ford ‘all weather’ optional floor mat should be placed in the driver’s side foot well only after first unfastening and removing the standard, carpeted floor mat.”
No accidents or injuries have been reported but NHTSA has said it received three complains – one of which came from Edmunds.com boss Dan Edmunds, who experienced the problem on a 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid.
Toyota recently recalled 5.4 million vehicles for what is essentially the very same issue – a hint that Ford could be facing a recall similar in scope. NHTSA has been on the war path recently, issuing a spate of new recalls and investigations based on fewer and fewer complains.
[Source: Detroit News]
Mercury‘s glory days are long over, with the brand lacking anything exciting or unique since the muscle car era. With the Grand Marquis scheduled to die alongside its customer base, and every other Mercury product available right next door at the Ford showroom, the storied brand is set to be euthanized by its parent company, Ford Motor Co., according to a report by Bloomberg News Service.
Ford executives are reportedly readying a proposal to kill Mercury, and will present the plan at a board meeting this July. While Ford is in good financial shape, shuttering Mercury would make sense, as two of its four cars are scheduled to die next year, leaving it a lame duck amid strong Ford and Lincoln lineups. General Motors has closed down three brands within the last decade, and Chrysler closed down its Plymouth division in 2001, so the move would not be unprecedented. Ford has spent 88 percent less on the brand from 2005 to 2009, as sales declined rapidly.
With Ford President Mark Fields has already confirmed that Mercury will get a new compact model based on the new Focus platform and now it seems that car’s name has gone public. According to a report by Automotive News, Mercury intends to bring back the Tracer name. This certainly makes sense as the the Tracer was historically the sister car to the Escort, which the Focus replaced.
There’s no word on what exactly will differentiate the Tracer from the Focus, but it’s likely the Mercury will only be offered in four-door form. Oh, and of course Ford will also have to develop a branded MyMercury Touch system to mirror the MyFord Touch and MyLincoln Touch interface systems currently being brought onto the market.
Ford hasn’t given much else in the way of details for the Mercury, but we imagine it could debut late this year as a 2011 or more likely in 2011 as a 2012.
[Source: Automotive News via Autoblog]
Ford is looking to inject some lift into the middling Mercury brand with a new compact car, based on the Ford Focus. While it’s not clear if the model will be a version of the Focus, after all, Ford is planning a total of 10 Focus-based models for the U.S., it is the most likely.
“Certainly, one [variant] will be a Mercury,” said Lincoln-Mercury spokesman Mark Schirmer. “It’ll give us something to put into showrooms, and help energize the Mercury brand.”
Ford recently showed two of the 10 models at the Detroit Auto Show, with the Focus hatchback and sedan. A Focus-based Grand C-Max MPV is also expected later this year.
According to Automobile Magazine, the car is likely to be a Mercury-badged Focus, which makes considerable sense, as this one model could almost double Mercury sales. We can’t imagine a hatchback Mercury, but a version of the Focus sedan is most certainly a possibility.
We expect the model could arrive as early as the LA Auto Show at the end of this year.
Ford ended 2009 with its highest sales month since May 2008 while gaining its first year-end market share gain since 1995.
Sales were up in every product category in December 2009 as Ford recorded a 33 percent sales increase compared to the same month in 2008.
Ford, Lincoln and Mercury sales totaled 179,017 in December. Full-year sales totaled 1.62 million, down 15 percent, but Ford estimates it still managed to increase its U.S. market share by a percentage point to 15 percent, representing Ford’s first full-year market share gain since 1995.
“Ford’s plan is working,” said Ken Czubay, Ford vice president, U.S. Marketing Sales and Service. “Customer consideration continues to grow for our high-quality, fuel-efficient vehicles. In 2010, we will introduce an even higher number of new products, giving customers more reasons to Drive One.”
The Ford Fusion, recently named Motor Trend’s Car of the Year, set a new full-year sales record at 180,671 units. Sales for the Ford Escape reached 173,044 units in 2009 for the crossover’s second-best year, including a 75 percent increase in December compared to 2008.
Ford’s F-Series truck had its best sales month since March 2008 with 48,209 units moving in December. The year-end tally of 413,625 units made the F-Series America’s best selling truck for the 33rd straight year, and top-selling vehicle, car or truck, for a 28th consecutive year.
Official release after the jump:
First increase since 2007 a sign that Ford is on the right track
With the current state of affairs in the auto industry, smaller than expected losses have been cause to celebrate, so imagine the party the folks over at Ford must be having right now as the company announced today that it actually posted a sales gain.
Last month Ford’s 10 percent loss was seen as a sign that Ford is on the right track and that the economy might just be recovering. This month the American automaker posted a two percent increase compared to the same month a year earlier. But that number doesn’t even tell the whole story as retail sales were actually up nine percent. Less impressive fleet sales (notorious for low profit margins) curbed that number down to two percent.
As a sign that Ford is not only fighting off this recession, but that the automaker is actually producing products that consumers want to buy, this sales gain is the first since November 2007.
Ford’s sales and marketing VP Ken Czubay credited the company’s fuel-efficient vehicles, combined with the government’s Cash-for-Clunkers program for the positive results. “We had another strong month in progress before the ‘Cash for Clunkers’ program started,” he said. “Our products, our dealers and our advance preparation enabled us to leverage the program and drive traffic and sales to another level. In addition, we achieved a sales increase even though we decreased incentive spending in an increasingly competitive environment.”
Particularly successful models for Ford included the Fusion, Escape, Ranger and Flex. Fusion sales were up 66 percent; Escape sales were up 94 percent; while Ranger and Flex sales were both up 65 percent over a year ago. In addition Ford saw a drastic increase in the number of customers opting for hybrids, with Ford’s hybrid lineup (including the Fusion, Milan, Escape and Mariner) posting an increase of 323 percent.
Official release after the jump:
Turbocharged four-banger could replace standard V6 engine in Mustang, F-150
Ford has just confirmed that it will bring an EcoBoost 4-cylinder engine to marker starting next year. The new engine will be a 2.0-liter gasoline four-cylinder and use a turbocharger to deliver at least 230hp and 240 ft-lbs of torque.
Much in the way that the 365-hp EcoBoost V6 delivers V8 power with V6 duel-economy, the EcoBoost four is designed to deliver V6 power with four-cylinder fuel-economy. Ford says it should deliver a 10 to 20 percent fuel-economy improvement over a similarly powerful V6 engine.
Ford will no doubt begin to use this new EcoBoost four as a replacement for many of its V6 engines in models like the Fusion, Edge and Escape/Mariner. There is the possibility that we could see the turbo-four replace the base V6 powerplants in models like the Mustang and F-150. Some rumors, however, have indicated that the Mustang could use the 3.7-liter V6 from the Lincoln MKS.
As with the current EcoBoost V6, Ford seems dedicated to using the new engines in higher-end trim levels of cars, such as with the SHO or the EcoBoost version of the Flex. That being said, there is potential that this new EcoBoost four could see its way in to a sporty version of the Focus.
Even smaller displacement (1.0- to 1.6-liter) EcoBoost engines are expected to follow for use in the Focus and the upcoming Fiesta, as Ford has its eye on becoming a bigger player in the high-volume sub-compact segment.
By 2010 Ford says it will have improve the fuel-economy of its vehicles by 20 percent as compared to 2005, with a goal of a 35 percent improvement by 2015.
[Source: Car & Driver]
The last Mercury Sable will roll off the assembly line this Thursday. The latest casualty of the worldwide economic downturn, the Mercury-branded Taurus has been produced alongside its vastly more popular brother since 1986 – with a short production stoppage in 2006.
While Ford recently unveiled an all new Taurus, the decision was made to hold-off on a Mercury version based on the same chassis and instead dedicate current advertising and future R&D resources to the Taurus.
Including the Sable, Mercury is comprised of five models, however, both the Mountaineer and Grand Marquis are expected to suffer the same fate as the Sable in the near future.
Mercury sales continue to decline (as do vehicle sales in general), but as Mercury is already a more niche market brand even small changes in volume can drastically effect profit margins.
The Detroit News spoke with Analyst Jim Hall of 2953 Analytics, who says that Mercury will likely continue-on, avoiding the fate of several if General Motors’ smaller brands. “Keeping Mercury allows them to do specialty vehicles that appeal to different demographics,” he told the Detroit newspaper, noting that both the Milan and Mariner have been a hit with Latinos and women.
This being the car’s eulogy, we’d like to say something nice about it, but we have as many emotions about the Sable as Spock does about, well, anything.
[Source: The Detroit News]
Just as General Motors announced it’s GM Total Confidence plan earlier today, Ford is getting into the incentive game with its new Ford Advantage Plan.
The “Plan” one-ups GM’s offer by covering 12 months of car payments for anyone who loses their job. Better still, the Ford will make those payments up to $700.
“Consumers remain anxious about the economy and their own outlook for the future. We at Ford want to do our part to rebuild faith in the marketplace by offering payment protection on every new Ford, Lincoln or Mercury vehicle for up to a year if our customers lose their jobs,” said Ken Czubay, vice president of Sales and Marketing.
The Ford Advantage Plan also includes zero percent financing on select Ford, Lincoln and Mercury vehicles.
Ford is not, however, offering a “negative equity” plan like General Motors, instead citing that FoMoCo cars have a high residual value.
“Ford’s improvements in quality have contributed significantly to our year-over-year improvements in residual values,” said Czubay.
“This is the strongest product lineup we have ever offered. When you combine these great products with payment protection, 0 percent financing and support for local charities, customers can feel confident about getting back into the market for a new car or truck.”
The Ford Advantage Plan runs from today until June 1st.
Official release after the jump: