Ford to Mercury Owners: The Garage Is Open

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Ford MercuryFord's decision to retire its Mercury brand has left some owners worried that they will no longer be able to get service and support for their cars. On Wednesday, Ford's executive vice president Mark Fields reassured them that the company plans to honor all Mercury warranties, and that Ford and Lincoln dealerships will continue to service the cars.

Originally created as a mid-market Ford line, Mercury has suffered from declining sales in recent years. Mercury currently has an anemic 0.8% market share, versus Ford's overall market share, which analysts estimate will top 17% by 2013. As it continues to compete with GM, which is just ahead with an 18% market share, Ford is following its competitor's strategy of shedding brands. Over the past year, GM has shuttered several marques, including Hummer, Pontiac and Saturn.

It isn't surprising GM's closures should have such a major effect on Mercury: in the 1930's, the now-moribund marque was introduced as a response to a growing mid-level auto market. Originally, Mercury was a mid-priced brand that filled out the space between Ford's $625 sedans and the $3,450 price tag on the cheapest Lincolns. In the ensuing decades, it found a place as a competitor for GM's mid-market Buick, Oldsmobile and Pontiac lines, as well as Chrysler's Plymouth marque. Today, however, Buick is the only one of those companies that is still in business, and its survival is largely based on its popularity in China.

Ford isn't completely abandoning its multiple-brand strategy; the carmaker currently plans to expand the Lincoln marque, developing fresh models that will increase its sales and identity. According to Fields, Ford's decision to shutter Mercury will enable it to "focus on bringing Lincoln to the next level to compete in the luxury car market."

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