6.03.2010

Mercury Dies So That Lincoln May Live


We pretty much did our post-mortem of Mercury five days early...running down the cause(s) of the impending death.

So what happens now? Well, Ford says they're going to devote their energies into revitalizing their Lincoln brand.

On paper, this makes a bunch of sense. The successful model for car sales is one mainstream brand, one luxury (think Toyota/Lexus)...with no definable space for a "middle" brand (GM is bucking that wisdom by keeping Buick).

But where exactly is Ford taking Lincoln? Part of the problem is that for all the talk of how Mercury was done in by being nothing more than some re-badged Fords, it's hard to say Lincoln's in much better shape (the MKZ is a Fusion, the MKX an Edge, the MKS a last-gen Taurus and the MKT a Flex...though those last two are pretty well disguised).

Unique products? Well, there's the Town Car...but that's a dinosaur headed to extinction with no plans for a replacement. Oh, yeah...and they still sell the Navigator. Just not many of them.

Ford says a small car (based on the next Focus) that was supposed to be a Mercury will now be a Lincoln.

Depends on how they do that...but it sounds a little down-market for where Lincoln needs to be.

The TireKicker take? Lincoln needs to take serious aim at Cadillac. They need one car at least as good as the CTS. A CTS-V competitor would have to follow. And, you may have noticed, the CTS is not a re-badged Chevrolet. They need a larger sedan to do battle with the DTS/STS replacement that's coming. They need a crossover to compete with the SRX.  And, if there's a market for a premium sedan below the CTS in the U.S., Lincoln needs to play there, too.

Until and unless the Ford Expedition becomes as good as or better than the Chevy Suburban, Lincoln doesn't need to go chasing the Escalade (especially not the pickup version).

All this means engines, materials, and enthusiasm well beyond what we've seen from Lincoln before...plus a promotion budget to get the message across to buyers (it's been 10 years since Cadillac claimed "Breakthrough" with Led Zeppelin and they're just starting to see the results). And that's going to be way more than combining the money devoted to Lincoln now with what they would have spent on Mercury.

The situation calls for a world-class luxury brand. And until and unless Ford gets that, Lincoln's in danger of being a more expensive Mercury.

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