To the long list of dead U.S. car brands, you can now add one more: Mercury. The Ford Motor Company announced today that Mercury production would cease by the end of this year.
That means that the widely anticipated compact Mercury version of the 2012 Ford Focus--named "Tracer" after the badge-engineered Ford Escort sold from 1991 to 199, and before that, used on a thinly disguised Mazda 323--will never see the light of day.
Lincoln Concept C Reveal - Detroit
1999 Mercury Tracer LS
1997 Mercury Tracer LS
1997 Mercury Tracer LS
Instead, the car may be reworked into a more luxurious Lincoln version. That compact Lincoln will likely draw its inspiration from the perplexing Lincoln Concept C show car presented at the 2009 Detroit Auto Show.
The rear-hinged rear doors of the Concept C were meant to evoke the legendary 1961 Lincoln Continental, and its 178-horsepower 1.6-liter EcoBoost four was projected to deliver 43 mpg on the highway cycle, paired with the Focus dual-clutch automatic gearbox.
Mark Fields, Ford's president of the Americas, had told dealers in February that the new Mercury would arrive in 2011. It was backed by data that showed small cars and crossovers continuing to gain market share in the next decade.
The Tracer was to share a platform with the compact 2012 Ford Focus, which will be sold as four-door sedan and five-door hatchback.
Ford's press release, in fact, focused on the expansion of its luxury Lincoln brand into a full lineup of models, including that high-end brand's first-ever compact car.
It wasn't until fully the fourth bullet point that it noted, "Ford will end production of Mercury vehicles in the fourth quarter of this year to fully devote its financial, product development, production and marketing, sales and service resources toward further growing its core Ford brand while enhancing Lincoln."
Mercury was started in 1939 to fill the gap between the mass-market Ford brand and the luxury of Lincoln.
In recent years, however, its most popular model was consistently the rear-wheel-drive Grand Marquis full-size sedan, which goes out of production at the end of 2010. Last year, it sold a mere 92,000 vehicles, against 1.4 million for Ford itself.
No replacements were launched for the Sable sedan (a Taurus underneath) or the Mountaineer (traditionally built on the Explorer sport utility vehicle). That left Mercury with only the Mariner compact SUV (aka Ford Escape) and the Milan midsize sedan (aka Fusion).
The Mariner would have been replaced once Ford launches a redesigned 2012 Escape based on the European Kuga. But even two vehicles hardly makes a model lineup, and Ford has mercifully chosen to pull the plug on a once-proud brand.
[Ford Motor Company]