Monday, February 22, 2010

Mercury Sable Production Ends

The Mercury brand continues to shrink as production of its Sable sedan ends Thursday at Ford's Chicago Assembly plant, which will start ramping up production of the 2010 Ford Taurus instead.

Mercury, Ford's mid-luxury lineup, has been suffering from an identity crisis in recent years. Originally conceived to fill the price gap between the Ford and Lincoln brands, it has slowly been cannibalizing sales of both of those brands instead. Although there was speculation that Ford would kill the brand off entirely, the automaker has vehemently denied those rumors and stated that Mercury has a place within Ford.

Despite its claims, Ford is not backing up the statements with actions. After the Sable is gone, Mercury will have only five models, and Ford hasn't announced plans to replace any of them after their current product cycles. Although Ford has said it will give Mercury a small car (currently, its smallest offering is the Milan, a mid-sized sedan), the recessionary carnage the market has suffered may force Ford to shutter Mercury altogether.

Ford sold 1,158 Mercury Sables last month, a decrease of 37.8 percent compared with April 2008. The Mercury brand was down almost 41 percent for April compared with last year, and is down almost 43 percent for the first four months of 2009. The Ford and Lincoln brands are down 40 percent and 35.6 percent, respectively.

The Chicago Assembly Plant, which also produced the Taurus X crossover that went out of production in April, also makes the Lincoln MKS.


Mercury’s New Compact Offering May Be Named “Tracer”

Remember Mercury’s plan for a new, compact C-segment offering? Chances are it’ll wear a “Tracer” nameplate.

According to Automotive News, Ford told dealers at the National Automobile Dealers Association convention that the car will be called Tracer, and will ultimately reach showrooms in 2011.

We’d heard a C-segment car was in Mercury’s plans last month, when Ford executives -- including Mark Fields, Ford’s president of the Americas -- told audiences that such a vehicle was under development. Ford sources tell us the car won’t be a “whitespace” vehicle like the Ford Grand C-Max, or even the Lincoln C concept.

Tracer, however, seems to be a surprising name choice. Not only does it break from Mercury’s recent naming conventions (which give models names that start with “M”), but we’d think Mercury would want to re-invent its small-car game.

Although it was first used on a modified version of the Mazda 323 in 1987, the Tracer name has long been synonymous with Mercury’s badge-engineered version of the Ford Escort. The Tracer nameplate -- along with a Mercury compact offering -- was killed in 1999.

Look for more information on the new Tracer to emerge later this year. We’ll likely see the new “mini-Merc” at the 2010 Los Angeles auto show, and the car should reach dealers in early 2011, shortly after the 2012 Focus goes on sale.


Friday, February 5, 2010