Feb. 6 -- Ford Motor Co.'s big product news this week was all about Mercury. That's because executives want to halt speculation that the brand might be killed.
The Mercury brand has two important purposes. It gives the company's Lincoln dealers non-luxury products to sell, which keeps them profitable, and building Mercury versions of Ford brand products fills up the capacity in assembly plants.
But that's part of the problem. Mercury products must be more than just re-badged Fords. Mercury's U.S. sales were off nearly 25 percent last year and fell another 18 percent in January.
Model year 2005 will be crucial. The Mercury crossover vehicle announced this week must be more than a re-badged Ford Freestyle and the Montego sedan needs to be more than just an upscale Ford 500.
That's the only way to keep Mercury from joining Edsel and Merkur in the brand graveyard.