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Despite Ford's optimism, Mercury could be dead by 2012

by Nick Aziz

Just yesterday, Ford CEO Alan Mullay said he thinks Mercury is "doing well," and "absolutely" has a future. But the company's product map tells a different story. Leftlane sources say Mercury has almost no future products in the pipeline. Many of the new products that were planned are now canceled. We've got the complete run down.



Milan

The Milan is the only Mercury product with a firm future for the next few years. It will get a moderate refresh, along with the Fusion for the 2009 model year. The Milan, along with the Fusion, will also get a hybrid variant at this point.

Once the Fusion comes up for a total redesign in 2011 or 2012, however, the Milan will likely be dropped.

Mariner

The current model is the last we should see of the Mariner. When the current Escape receives a refresh or redesign in two or three years, the Mariner will not come along for the ride.

Mountaineer and Grand Marquis

Both the Mountaineer and Grand Marquis are most certainly on the way out. The Mountaineer could be gone in a year -- a move announced as part of Ford's "Way Forward" strategy. The aging Grand Marquis will be phased out around the same time as the current Ford Crown Victoria.

Sable

With the Sable (and Ford Taurus) just receiving a refresh, this is the last we will see of the Sable. When the current Taurus is due for a refresh/redesign in 2-3 years, the Sable model will be dropped.

Mercury version of the Ford Flex

The original plan for the Ford Flex program was to have a Mercury variant. However, over a year ago, this model was canceled. The secondary vehicle was instead given to Lincoln. This is the Lincoln D472 program now under development.

Mercury version of the Taurus X

We first saw evidence of this vehicle with the Mercury Meta one concept. Then, in mid 2006, we saw camouflaged prototypes of this vehicle testing. The vehicle amounted to a Ford Freestyle with a Mercury grill, slightly changed body work and different tail lights. Ford obviously realized this wasn't going to be enough to generate sales and killed the program over a year ago.

Ford preview event

Ford held a preview of their lineup for media members and employees late in 2006. Sources in attendance indicated that Mercury was talked about very little during the preview. They also indicated that the only Mercury product they were shown was a Milan with a minor exterior refresh.

Dead by 2012?

Mercury sold 180,848 vehicles in 2006 "” the division's lowest total since 1960 "” and was 11 percent off that pace through the first nine months of 2007. Most industry observers expect a gradual death for Mercury. By 2012, it's a good possibility the last ever Mercury will roll off the line then.

While there have been rumors about Ford importing European cars to America and badging them as Mercury models, sources say this scenario is unlikely. Federalizing and importing foreign market cars is expensive and reengineering them for U.S. production is also costly. Whether the Mercury brand is worth this investment is highly questionable. GM used a similar strategy by aligning its Saturn and Opel brands, but Saturn was considerably stronger than Mercury when this decision was made.