With Mercury Gone, Where Will Lincoln Go?

The Ford Motor Company has announced the pending demise of its Mercury brand, at one time the premium brand wedged between Ford and Lincoln. Founded by Edsel Ford in 1939, Mercury has never quite lived up to expectations although at its peak in the late 1970s, it sold more than 500,000 units annually.

R.I.P. Mercury

Those sales numbers eventually dropped to the point where fewer than 100,000 Mercury models were sold in 2009. 2010 will be the last year for Mercury, leaving Lincoln dealers with fewer models to sell, at least for now. That means Ford will bolster the Lincoln line offering new and refreshed models to strengthen the brand in addition to important new technologies and powertrains.

Ford CEO Alan Mulally has not contacted me yet for my advice which is a pity for him. I have some terrific ideas for bolstering the Lincoln brand, providing fresh direction for Ford's luxury marque. Alan, if you are reading this, here is what you can do for Lincoln:

Big Sedan -- The Town Car will soon be history, leaving the MKS to take over as the flagship sedan. Unfortunately, this car is too small for livery purposes, an area where Ford does make some money. With the Hyundai Equus hitting the market later this year, all of those black limousines you see on the road may soon be Korean makes unless Ford acts and quick. One way to do that is to simply stretch out the platform of the MKS by a foot and sell that sedan in all wheel drive. It'll give livery folks the car they need and match what the European brands have to offer in handling.

Product Differentiation -- Much has been said about Lincoln's apparent lack of original product, though I believe that the MKS and Taurus are significantly different. Beyond that, Ford needs to develop models unique to Lincoln in order to be relevant. Tackling the compact market with a stylish car that takes on the upcoming Cadillac ATS, Mercedes B-Class and BMW 1-Series is a must. Heck, take the Focus platform and drop a unique body on it to build the car. But do it. The MKZ hybrid is a good idea, but a compact dedicated Lincoln will be the entry level model Lincoln needs to win.

Unique Powertrains -- Ford says that it will develop unique powertrains exclusive to Lincoln, but what does that mean? Minimally, an eight-speed automatic would help and could and should be the standard transmission across Lincoln's line up. In addition, perhaps a dedicated Lincoln EcoBoot of, let's say 3.0-liters would be the V-6 engine that could replace every V8. Yes, a turbo-diesel would be a bold move to take, but I don't believe the market would support the engine. Unless an international market could support the engine as well.

New Day

If this was Ford in 2005 I would be worried. But Bill Ford is out of the way and Alan Mulally is calling shots, the most confident person to run Ford in my lifetime. Mulally will shepherd Mercury's demise and improve Lincoln; by 2015 things should be radically different inside of Lincoln showrooms, a rejuvenated brand freed from the shackles of Mercury.

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