The fast changing face of car brands

Ford Motor Company has announced that its Mercury brand will be discontinued later this year.  This follows several other announced or completed U.S. vehicle brand eliminations including Plymouth, Eagle, Oldsmobile, Pontiac, Saturn and Hummer.

End of era for Mercury

Sales of Mercury, which has been situated between the more mainstream Ford and upscale Lincoln brands, have dropped by more than 70 percent since the year 2000.

Additionally, as well as Ford Motor Company and the Ford brand have done lately, Ford’s Mercury brand has suffered from a lack of distinguishable products and wasn’t expected to have stand-alone, unique products in the pipeline anytime soon.

“Mercury is a forgotten brand,’’ said John Wolkonowicz, an auto analyst with IHS Global Insight in Lexington, Mass, in a recent article in the Detroit News. “Many Americans probably already think it has been discontinued.’’

The Mercury brand was established by Ford in the 1930s by Edsel Ford, son of founder Henry Ford.  It was intended to serve as a mid-priced alternative to lower-priced Ford and higher-priced, upscale Lincoln.  According to insiders, Edsel’s great-granddaughter, Elena Ford, initially opposed discontinuing the Mercury brand.  She now serves as the automaker’s director of global marketing,

Brand ownership transfers

Over the past few months and years, several major changes in car brand and car company ownership have taken place.

  • Hummer was purchased from AM General by General Motors, later discontinued.
  • BMW bought the Britain-based Mini and has accelerated production, increased models and grown its network.
  • General Motors sold its Saab brand to European-based Spyker Cars.
  • Ford sold its Jaguar and Land Rover brands to India-based TaTa Motors.
  • Ford sold the Aston Martin brand to a British manufacturer.
  • Ford has announced its planned sale of the Volvo brand to Geely, a Chinese automotive company.
  • Chrysler LLC was sold during re-organization to Fiat, based in Italy.

What do these changes and brand eliminations mean for consumers?

Today consumers have very little to fear from car brand eliminations or manufacturer/owner changes. (Ten or 20 years ago, it may have been a different situation.)

For Mercury owners, Saturn owners and the others, warranties will be honored, parts will be available and general vehicle value is not expected to drastically change, though there may be a quicker early drop in value than would have otherwise been expected.  As experienced with the elimination of Plymouth, Oldsmobile, Saturn and other brands, a certain percentage of the populace will seek out new Mercury models and consider themselves lucky to get one while the last few vehicles of the brand were still available.

Additionally, in Mercury’s case, new models still available on dealer lots are expected to come with lucrative incentives as Ford winds down production and distribution of the brand.  In other words, consumers can expect to see bargains in the form of discounts or rebates and other incentives as the final new Mercury cars are sold later this year.  For those who want to own a slice of automotive history, gain sentimental value or take advantage of special deals, your moment is here.

Tim Jackson is president of the Colorado Automobile Dealers Association.

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About timwjackson

Working every day for a better Colorado.
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One Response to The fast changing face of car brands

  1. Pingback: 2010 in review | Tim W Jackson's Blog

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