Right now, it seems that the Ford brand has usurped the Mercury slot. It is offering attractive and refined vehicles that can demand a higher price than the bottom rung. It is showing in their profits per vehicle, and the sales of their higher line packages.
Agreed, back when the Big 3 controlled 80+% of the market all those brands made sense, but not any longer.
This should allow Lincoln to go upscale and expand. It just seems to be taking a long time.
I don't like saying this, and nobody will like reading this, but I believe Lincoln see's the market coming to them rather then the other way around. Kind of like when the MKS was originally a concept and Ford was polling people as to whether they would prefer a V8 or a 400hp twin turbo V6. They were right for the majority of the market, smaller boosted engines are the future as we're seeing more and more with the competition. I have a bad feeling they see the market also moving to smaller front/all wheel drive vehicles going forward and have placed their bet there. I'm still holding out hope, but its fading fast.
I think GM needs the three brands for now. The Caddy brand is entrenched, and making progress.
Chevy is still a bit behind Ford on most fronts, so Buick can offer a premium priced vehicle until Chevy catches up. Maybe in ten years, Buick will not be needed, but for now, it serves a good purpose. If the time comes for Buick to depart, it would be smart for GM to transition some names, styles, and features to Chevy.
I'm not saying that GM cannot make the three brand strategy work, but I think they have to ensure that Buick has a unique place in that lineup. Caddy and Chevy can get away with using the same/similar platforms and keeping them differentiated enough to not step on each others toes. If they try to keep doing the same with Buick then eventually Chevy will eat them alive from below and Caddy from above. Caddy has to compete on the lower end of the luxury spectrum just as the German and Asian brand's do. Chevy will need to compete also at that lower end just as its competition does, Ford, Toyota, Nissan, and Honda all have cars that are nipping at the heels of entry level luxury.
As a Ford guy I'm happy to see them focused on two core brands! Absolutely nothing good can come from stretching development dollars to try to make one platform unique enough to justify three brands. Focus on making the two the best they can be in their perspective markets, so far Ford has done this very well, Lincoln not so much.