Mercury's place in the Ford Motor Co. family is secure, says Jim Schroer, the company's vice president for global marketing.
In fact, Ford is planning to reinvigorate the Mercury franchise with "stylish" designs. It also will create more stand-alone Mercury stores.
Schroer said the transition to a chain of Mercury-only dealerships will take years, but he would not estimate how many.
Currently, Mer-cury is wedded to the Lincoln brand in many dealerships, but not the majority. Lincoln-Mercury represents about 750 dealerships, while all other Mercury combinations and stand-alones number about 1,200.
The first glimpse of Mercury's new lineup will come at the Chicago auto show this week. Mercury will unveil the minivan that will replace the Villager.
"Mercury has gotten off track in its mission," Schroer said.
"When Henry Ford created Mercury, it was the stylish brand. That has been its role from the beginning — cars that differentiate themselves by being a little more stylish. That's the role we're going back to at Mercury."
"What we've seen in the industry is a squeeze on middle-market brands as luxury lines introduced less expensive models and entry brands have moved upmarket," he said.
He said it is necessary for Mercury to differentiate its brand through style and not price.