Ford To Eliminate Mercury Brand

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Ford Motor Company says sales of its Mercury brand are so dismal that it will stop making the cars this year. The automaker says it will divert the resources it was devoting to the ailing brand to boost Ford and Lincoln sales.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Ford Motor Company has made it official: It will stop producing the Mercury line of cars. The automaker says it's shifting resources from that brand to the more upscale Lincolns.

Michigan Radio's Tracy Samilton has more.

TRACY SAMILTON: Mercury was born in 1939 to give Ford-brand customers a stepping stone on their way up to more luxurious vehicles. But last year, Ford sold only 92,000 Mercurys, down from more than half a million at its peak.

Ford executive Mark Fields says it's the Ford brand that's been gobbling up market share in the U.S.

Mr. MARK FIELDS (Executive Vice President, Ford Motor Company): Our total market share for Mercury is 8/10ths of a percentage point, and that's been declining for several years.

SAMILTON: Auto analysts like John Wolkonowicz of IHS Global Insight aren't surprised. He says Ford just couldn't make the brand appeal to younger people.

Mr. JOHN WOLKONOWICZ (Auto Analyst, IHS Global Insight): The average Mercury buyer is, let's just say, above 65. Many of them are members of the Depression generation, my dad's generation.

SAMILTON: The decision could make life simpler for dealers who have a Ford and Mercury franchise, since these days, Fords and Mercurys look pretty much the same. But there are 276 dealers that sell only Lincolns and Mercurys. Now they'll be selling only Lincolns.

Ford won't disclose the cost of ending the brand, but says it still expects a profitable 2010.

For NPR News, I'm Tracy Samilton, in Ann Arbor.

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