Mercury vehicles have a proud heritage and they build solid, quality vehicles. Is it time for them to shut the doors or are there alternatives?
In my opinion, I think this is the perfect time to re-invent themselves into the fun, sports, AWD division of Ford. I shared some of my thoughts in the current issue of Dealer Digest Daily with an editorial entitled, Let Mercury Rise from the Ashes Like the Phoenix.
To eliminate Mercury would seem a bad choice for Ford. It is an established name, it has a customer base and its production costs are probably less then many other brands because of the parts cross over. I think it would be hard to replace those points
From experience I can say that, in most cases, the Mercury customer is a different customer then the Ford customer. In most cases believing it is an "Up-quality"
What I think they should do is to stop treating it like a stepchild. Give Mercury the plan and resources to build itself, independently. When is the last time you noticed a Mercury ad on TV or in a magazine?
Many of the body parts are the same as Ford units but so are many of the body parts of other makes like Honda/Acura, Nissan/Infiniti.
Maybe the way to go is to move Mercury up or down the image ladder. Much like Mark Dubis wrote.
Establish a "culture" of it's own.
While it is now official they are shutting down the division it was nice to dream about what might have been. Here is the article I referenced in my intro.
Let Mercury Re-Invent Itself
The buzz over the past weeks is that Ford Motor Company will finally put its Mercury Division out to pasture and shut it down. While it is no mystery that Mercury has dwindled in its importance and visibility to the industry, I can’t help but wonder what might have been. Their products are top notch but they lack some excitement.
I believe the current environment offers an opportunity to re-create the division as a youth oriented, sporting focused, fun to drive vehicle division. They can take a few pages from the Scion playbook and create niche vehicles that bring back some excitement to the segment. The exec’s “driving this division” should have a passion for vehicles, be a bit creative and unleash the fun we all know exists at the deeper levels within the Ford organization.
If I was part of that team, here is how the vehicle lineup would evolve.
To start off, keep the Milan but make it a tad longer and a bit sexier. It stills feels a bit boxy. Phase out the Mariner and the Mountaineer as they don’t fit with the new, invigorated Mercury.
Next bring back the Cougar as an edgy version of the Mustang as it was originally. The 1967 Cougar had sequential taillights, hideaway front headlights, and a powerful engine. It was sexy, elegant, and powerful all at the same time. This new iteration won’t be a Mustang clone, but something totally unique. New lightweight materials, an interior worthy of being “ripped off” as the model for the dash and interior on a small space pod on the next Star Trek movie, and a sleek profile will insure demand exceeds supply. While the vehicle is a four-seater, make no mistake this will be a driver’s car. And while it may be inspired by the Mustang, it will be nothing like the Cougar Eliminator which really missed the mark. Primary Target Market: The folks who march to the beat of a different drummer. You know who I mean, the people who are tired of retro cars like the Mustang, Camaro and the "no real identity" Asian coupes.
Next is the Mercury Comet! This model will come in a convertible and hatchback coupe. Think Pontiac Solstice (but longer) meets Jaguar XKE (the original). This is a two seat sports car that will appeal to both young, mobile 30 something’s and the boomer’s who want to put some fun into their retirement. The engine is a high output 4 Cylinder that is easy on gas, but powerful enough to make this a real fun to drive car. Its liquid styling cues along with some muscle car fender bulges over the tires make this a car that will turn heads everywhere it goes. A 5 speed transmission is standard and the automatic is a no-cost option. The signature iridescent yellow paint and the wrap-around interior dash and door trim let you know you are prepared to be whisked away through the Stargate.
Last but not least is the Mercury Cyclone. This is a heart stopping all-wheel-drive sports crossover with in-your-face, cutting edge styling. While it’s a four door with room for your friends, it rugged stance and high ground clearance signal its meant for business in all sorts of rough road or off road conditions. It’s a vehicle where both Indiana Jones and Laura Croft would be comfortable.
The interior looks cool, but is utilitarian and can be hosed out after it’s been ridden hard and put away wet. The doors have Lexan panels to give it a more open feel and the bold color options draw attention when you pull up to the nightclub, the hunting lodge or dare we say, the day care center. And, before you are allowed to buy a Cyclone, the dealership has to train and certify you that you can handle this in the conditions where the Cyclone is at its best.
Well all these thoughts are just dreams of what might have been.
Mark R. Dubis is with Carfolks.com, a dealer advocate website helping consumers find quality automotive retailers. 216-712-6712