Clip Mercury? How dare you!
I would like to lodge a protest to your Page 1 story on Dec. 20, 'Reitzle: Mercury will shrink.'
1. Wolfgang Reitzle clearly has no sense of Mercury's history, only the history of the European marques he manages. Had he ever seen a sexy 1955 Mercury Montclair coupe or Cougar Eliminator or Marauder convertible, he would not be so quick to neglect such a wonderful American nameplate.
2. Nobody should be paid top dollar for presiding over the slow decline of a fine automobile. Providing Mercury with exciting new product should be the task at hand. Mercury is an exceptional automotive name. For some time, it has inexcusably been denied remarkable product.
3. In less robust times, demand for Ford Motor Co.'s many luxury brands may fall, Mercury's 'affordable level' status may be sorely missed.
4. Many Mercury buyers consider Fords (and Chevrolets) 'common,' but they will not buy foreign. The lost Mercury sales will go to Oldsmobile, Chrysler and Pontiac.
DUANE T. DORSAY
Air Purification Inc.
The writer distributes industrial air cleaning equipment.
Go to dealers to revive LM
I was very disappointed to read of the possible demise of Mercury.
I have been a Ford Motor Co. dealer since 1968, and it has always amazed and appalled me that one of the greatest automotive enterprises on the planet has not been able to operate two extraordinarily successful divisions in North America.
I can understand General Motors' challenge - how do you keep six divisions and seven brands fresh and competitive without having overlapping products, marketing messages and customers?
Lincoln Mercury Division should sell 1 million vehicles a year (1999 sales: 614,493). The fact that it doesn't is unfortunate for dealers and shareholders and is a direct indictment of the management of the company.
What's the answer to 1 million sales for LM? Ford Motor should listen to its dealers. Ever wonder why Ford is almost dead last in the National Automobile Dealers Association survey on dealer input? I can think of at least 20 actions that would have a positive impact on sales, starting tomorrow and continuing for several years.
I can also tell you where the answers do not reside - precisely in the exotic off-the-wall marketing concepts on which Ford has been squandering scarce resources. A good place to start investigating how to improve the fortunes of Lincoln Mercury would be to get close to the customer who, after all, is the dealer.
LARRY S. MERRIAM
Merriam, Key, Park City Dealerships
Looking back at a century
Peter Brown's Comment column in your Dec. 27 issue, 'Times change; what else is new?', was right on target.
Expressed as a rate, it is very likely that basic human conditions changed as least as much in the first 50 years of the 20th century as in the last. It's good to visit that idea when we feel overwhelmed.
The things that have changed are the players - who drives (influences) what, the growing irrelevance of governmental restrictions as people simply step over the rules with the Internet (a decent argument can be made that the fax was as important in changing the U.S.S.R. back to Russia as defense expenses), the diversity of culture and who gets to participate and the sheer mountain of data, most of which isn't knowledge but needs to be sorted anyway to avoid missing nuggets - and so forth.
The future will take a 'temperament' we can more easily allow our children to develop than we can change in ourselves. That's OK.
Let's hear it for stick shift
Your 'Sticks hit the skids' article (Jan. 10) brought back memories of my first Volkswagen Beetle, a 1969 model with an 'automatic stick shift.'
It was nothing like the auto-manuals of today. It actually was quite fun to drive (even with only 53 horsepower) and was the closest thing to an actual stick.
In 1975, I 'moved up' to a Honda Civic CVCC with a four-speed manual, and I continued to drive manuals until 1996, when I bought my first four-speed automatic.
Within six months, I couldn't stand it anymore and, finally, after two years of 'torture,' I went back to a five-speed manual. I can't see driving anything else.
I totally agree with Jim Press of Toyota that 'nothing beats a manual.' Those who have never driven one don't know what they're missing, and those who gave it up for an automatic because it's more convenient aren't real driving enthusiasts!
EDWARD G. STRONSKI
Vice President, Media
Hottman Edwards Inc.
Hottman Edwards is an advertising-marketing-public relations firm.
Americans work hard, too
In your Nov. 6 issue, you quoted a high-ranking German DaimlerChrysler manager as saying that he and his German colleagues were 'a lot more devoted to their work than the Americans' and that they thought nothing of jumping on an airplane for a Friday meeting, knowing they would have to fly home on the weekend.
I had previously read that in Der Spiegel (the German answer to Newsweek or Time), and when it came up in your publication, I thought it was time to level the playing field.
I have no connection with Chrysler other than driving a Chrysler product. For 40 years, I have worked with Europeans, mostly Germans, and I have not found them to be more devoted to work than the Americans I know.
The German workweek is a government-mandated 35 hours. Stores close early and are not open on Sunday. It is probably no big deal for a high-ranking German manager to spend a weekend on a plane, knowing that he gets six weeks' vacation a year. I have difficulty counting the weeks of vacation I never got to take because work comes first, which applies to my many former colleagues and surely to Chrysler managers as well.
I have no doubt that Daimler employees are a hard-working bunch. After all, they put out some unbeatable automobiles.
On the other hand, I remember that when Daimler took over Chrysler, Chrysler's profit was twice as high as Daimler's, and Chrysler did it with one-half the work force of Daimler. To me, that doesn't sound like a lack of devotion to work on the part of the Americans.
The working environment between Daimler and Chrysler seems to have plenty of room for improvement, and statements like the one by the unnamed German manager do not help.
WILFRED E. VonZASTROW
Intertec Marketing Inc.
Bloomfield Hills, Mich.
It's your move, Mr. Crain
In the late 1980s when, as marketing manager of Ford's Parts and Service Division, I was leading the crusade against imitation crash parts, your editorial page criticized our efforts and those of the other auto manufacturers as being anti-competitive.
At a cocktail party marking the 25th anniversary of the Rotunda equipment brands, I pointed out to Keith Crain and your editor that the parts in question were truly inferior in every respect, yet were being promoted by suppliers and the insurance industry as being of 'like kind and quality.'
As I recall, Crain said that if it were independently and conclusively proved that those parts were inferior to the original equipment, you would so indicate on your editorial page.
Ford subsequently won a judgment for $1.25 million against Keystone Automotive, which also required Keystone to place advertisements in trade magazines acknowledging that their imitation crash parts were, in fact, inferior. The recent jury decision against State Farm Insurance Co. and the megabucks awarded to the plaintiffs would seem to provide further proof of the inferior quality of such parts.
Since I retired, I have remained an Automotive News subscriber to keep up with the industry and, also, in the hope that you would somehow acknowledge that the auto manufacturers were justified in their efforts to expose the fact that imitation crash parts were and are inferior and not of 'like kind and quality.'
Isn't it about time?