Mercury Blues: Is Ford’s Troubled Brand Singing its Last Song?
but the part that got my attention was thisIt’s nice to know that singer Alan Jackson has a thing for Mercury, because it doesn’t seem like many other American motorists do. Despite the addition of some critical new products, including the 2009 Mariner hybrid crossover, as well as the restyled and renamed Sable sedan, things aren’t looking too good for the “other” Ford division.
Sinking fast, Mercury’s sales fell a painful 35 percent in January, compared to year-earlier numbers. And for all of 2007, the brand’s volume slumped 7 percent, to a grand total of jut 168,422 cars, trucks and crossovers. That’s barely a third of Mercury’s all-time record, 528,033, set back in 1985. And it’s even less than the numbers that convinced General Motors to pull the plug on its Oldsmobile division.
So why not put Mercury out of its misery?
That’s a question new marketing czar, Jim Farley, has had to consider. But for now, at least, he’s giving the troubled brand a reprieve. While he’s still formulating his strategy, Farley seems intent on turning Mercury into a Detroit version of Toyota’s Scion. Industry aficionados will recall that the young executive initially came to the public’s attention as the first general manager of Toyota’s youth-oriented nameplate.
Scion’s approach is to offer a limited selection – typically no more than three separate models – of hip, and often quirky products, such as the boxy xB. The strategy has been working quite well. For one thing, Scion helped boost Toyota’s overall volumes to the point that it pushed past Ford to become the number two U.S. automaker, in 2007.
Actually, the Scion numbers really aren’t much different from Mercury’s. More significantly, it’s been drawing in the sort of upwardly mobile trendsetters that have long ignored Toyota showrooms. And that could be the biggest payoff for Ford, if it can revitalize the Mercury brand.