By on September 27, 2007

ford-focus-st-s1b.jpgI recently found myself in London working on a large project for an even larger corporation. I took particular interest in the Ford models plying British roads. In contrast to America’s Blue Oval offerings, these Euro-Fords looked clean, modern and, above all, right-sized. And then, bombing around London in a Ford Mondeo estate (station wagon), the chariot’s gentle diesel clatter brought sudden clarity. If Ford hopes to preserve America’s mildewed Mercury brand, Euro-Fords are the way to go.

Well, maybe not THAT Ford. My last gen Mondeo hire car made an avocado-hued dinette look modern. That said, the little estate’s lack of style was no match for its undeniable substance. Respect to interior materials that wouldn’t seem out of place in a “proper” VW and the Duratorq’s prodigious oil-burning grunt. And despite CUV-levels of space, the Mondeo’s suspension means you’ll never utter the phrase “car-like handling” again.

But wait, there’s more! Gazing over London’s M4 gridlock brought mass awareness of the Blue Oval kind. The Ford Galaxy MPV, the spawn of a Honda Odyssey and a personal trainer, is everywhere. You can’t sneeze without hitting a Ford Transit, the workhorse of an entire nation. And then there’s the big shock: the Euro-spec Focus is even better than Google tells you. 

To reiterate: the Focus is not just easy on the eyes; it brings tears to them. And that’s just the base model. The Focus ST makes any red-blooded Yank lust for this Englishman in New York. And everyone from urban youth to the middle-aged stealth wealth-set are spotted (or not) in a Focus.

And yet, America gets no love. This despite [what I sense to be] pent-up demand for something (anything?) from The Blue Oval Boyz with unique style, innovative engineering, fuel-efficient dimensions and sporting dynamics. So bring this Euro-stuff over, rebadge it Mercury, get Jill Wagner to wear something suitably slinky and growl at the new car and call it good. No, call it great.

In theory, Saturnalian Euro-transplantation is a slam dunk for a Ford brand without any discernible identity– or future. In practice, there are plenty of excellent reasons why it hasn’t happened. 

For one thing, the weak US dollar makes a mockery of any Ford exec stupid (brave?) enough to suggest UK to US Ford exports. A UK buyer can pick-up a new Ford Mondeo “Edge” with a 2.0-liter engine for around ₤16k. At today’s exchange rate, that’s $32,253.18. Add on another $5k or so for federalization and transportation, and you’re looking at a US sticker price that’s nearasdammit $40k.

A US buyer can pick-up a loaded BMW 325i for the same wedge. By the same token, you’d have a very hard time indeed spending that much money on a Lincoln MKZ. I mean, the Mondeo may be a better car than a tarted-up Ford Fusion, but inserting it into Mercury’s lineup at that price point would play merry Hell with what remains of Ford’s brand delineations.

Anyway, the United Auto Workers (UAW) would never let it happen. A financial agreement this side of Bretton Woods would be required to keep the UAW’s finger off the supply chain’s big red button. Fresh from their GM strike, methinks union leaders aren't about to turn to Ford CEO Alan Mulally and say “Bring in some European Fords for Mercury? Sure! Whatever it takes Al, whatever it takes.”

Even if Ford could surmount these hurdles, history tells us that any such technology transfer is doomed to failure. Witness the hot/cold reaction to the Cougar hatchback-transplant and its Mercury Mistake Mystique cousin. Or the sunk-without-a-trace new-wave Merkurs. While pistonheads like your author may love clean-looking, tight-handling European Fords, there’s no guarantee anyone else will.

So, basically, the law of supply and demand says it ain’t gonna happen. But the spirit of the law says that Ford can, should and will capitalize on its excellence abroad to revive its moribund market at home. And despite all the critics who’ve written-off Mercury, it’s not impossible to surmise that the brand could benefit from Alan Mulally’s ongoing realization that product excellence doesn’t live here anymore. 

Ford’s sale of Jaguar will free Lincoln to reach higher [than rebadging Fords]. This opens a big space between everyman Ford and upscale Lincoln. In fact, it’s Mercury’s old stomping ground: affordable style. What’s to stop Mercury from capitalizing on Ford’s Euro-style and Euro-excellence by building “world” cars in, dare I say it, Mexico with, dare I say it, grace and pace?

The hypothetical Euro-Mercury brand could have the best of everything: a highly-rated dealer network (that’s Lincoln-Mercury), products that go toe-to-toe with anything in their class and a brand name (formerly) known for selling upscale iron that most anyone can afford. Get it done and it won’t be long before Jill Wagner is the most forgettable part of Mercury.

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95 Comments on “Mercury Rising?...”


  • avatar
    dwford

    So, it doesn’t make sense to import Euro Fords as Mercurys, and it equally doesn’t make sense to combine US Ford and Euro Ford lineups, and then restyle them all as Mercurys – given the volumes.

    Where does that leave Mercury? Twisting in the wind again. Time to ditch Mercury and double Lincoln’s lineup.

  • avatar
    Nemphre

    I can’t say for sure without actually driving one of these Euro Fords, but my guess is that this is all it would take to get me to buy a Mercury, or at least seriously consider one. Why can’t they build these Euro cars in the US? Position Mercury mid-market and move Lincoln higher. Mercury could be useful, as the Ford name has a stigma for a lot of people. When I see the Ford logo on something, my brain just automatically starts thinking “cheap and bad.” Mercury’s marketing at least gives a sense of being classy, and they haven’t sold very many cars, so perhaps people won’t remember their damaged history.

    At least the Ford Verve looks good. An “American” car that I could actually see myself driving. Unfortunately, there’s no guarantee that it will arrive on this side of the Atlantic. If it does, I hope they offer it with the MZR 2.3l engine, and call it the Verve, rather than that terrible Fiesta nameplate.

  • avatar
    OldandSlow

    It’s been done before, i.e. the Mercury Capri of the mid-1970′s.

    The trouble is Ford Motor’s staying power in promoting such a line up doesn’t usually last very long.

    As a brand and a damaged one at that, Merc seems to be perennially doomed to selling rebadged domestic Fords.

  • avatar
    guyincognito

    Too bad its impossible for Ford USA to come up with vehicles like their European counterparts…

  • avatar
    chris2

    mmmmm, Jill Wagner.

  • avatar
    Lichtronamo

    Mullally’s “One Ford” plan is clearly to ditch Mercury, elevate Ford to the level of the European products that would be competitive with anything sold in the US and push Lincoln to cover everyting above that. Remember Mullally drove a Lexus before taking the Blue Oval job and I’m sure he noticed how well Toyota has done with just two brands (Scion not withstanding).

  • avatar
    windswords

    I just don’t see the problem here. I guess I am too ignorant or slow. My take is this:

    See nice Euro Ford factory and all it’s equipment for making a very modern car? Call up the company that tooled your factory and tell them you would like to order another one for a US plant, M-kay?

    See nice Euro-Ford suppliers with all their great interior bits, wheels, brake systems, and electronic gee-gaws? Work out a licensing agreement to manufacture these things in the US or contract with US suplliers to make the same parts to escactly the same specs.

    Now you are making essentially the same car in the US of A. The price still might be higher, but if it’s the best thing in it’s class and is unique, it will sell.

    This could not be done “overnight” like just importing the cars, and it will cost several hundred million (no, make that several billion, Ford has never had good cost control). So you might have to wait for the next gerneration to pull all the pieces together, but hey, these guys in the glass house are paid to make the long range plans, so please just do it!

  • avatar
    philbailey

    Before the original Focus came here, it already had a terrific reputation in Europe.

    After it arrived on our shores. it became the recall champion of all time. No such thing happened in Europe.

    Conclusion? The “value engineers” got to it and cheapened it so much that it just wasn’t a Focus anymore.

    If Ford were to try that again, they’d have to sell the original car at a much higher price (exchange rates, anyone?) and as such, the project would be a total failure.

    I owned a V6 Capri and it was one of the best cars it has ever been my misfortune to sell. I should have kept it forever.

  • avatar

    I don’t like the suspension tuning of Mercury counterparts to the Ford brother. In the Explorer/Mountaineer and Escape/Mariner, the Mercury version has what I supposed is considered a sportness tuning/tightness to the suspension, for better handling, or something. What you end up with is a hemoroidian ride that sucks over any deviance in the road. The Ford suspensions are much nicer in this way, hence why I purchased an Explorer EB over the Mountaineer years ago.

    I also think the interiors are much nicer in the Limited & Eddie Bauer ford counterparts, but that’s my opinion. The brushed aluminum crap in the Mercuries is cheap looking to me.

  • avatar
    murphysamber

    @chris2:

    me first.

    —————-
    why do I always feel insulted by Ford when I see what they offer in Europe and Australia? I currently lust after a GTI. I lust after one because everytime I sit in my girlfriend’s 2001 Focus, it makes my blood boil. When I saw the “new” Focus at the Detroit auto show last winter I wanted to walk up to one of the schmucks in a suit looking proud and ask him if he was the one who thinks americans like to buy the same old crap year after year. That ST in the picture is a Ford I would buy, and I’ve never owned a domestic car in my life. How about a Falcon? why would I want to bother with a friggin’ lump of Alamo special mustang when I could have a turbo Falcon? Ford NA pisses me off. Build them here if you have to.

  • avatar
    CeeDragon


    windswords :
    September 27th, 2007 at 8:16 am

    I just don’t see the problem here. I guess I am too ignorant or slow. My take is this:

    See nice Euro Ford factory and all it’s equipment for making a very modern car? Call up the company that tooled your factory and tell them you would like to order another one for a US plant, M-kay?

    Makes total sense to me too, since Toyota, Honda, BMW, etc. have factories in the US.

    But… if I’m a GM senior executive, then my compensation plan only pays out if I meet some metrics THIS fiscal year. I can’t sink money into something that will help the company NEXT year! Besides, a hefty part of my bonus is based on the amount of people I’ve fired, not retained.

  • avatar
    Jeff in Canada

    I would love, ‘LOVE’ to see a Euro-spec Focus and Mondeo on our roads, but to achieve this, even if FoMoCo established transplant manufacturing resources on these shores, the prices would need to rise. I think Ford’s mngmt has accepted their stance in the automotive market as a low-mid level manufacturer, offering value, not performance or class or style. Even if they threw a Mercury badge on a Euro Focus, I can see myself paying $35,000 for an ST, even though, as a pistonhead, I know what it can do.

    In Europe, Ford doesn’t have these branding issues, They are viewed as the “Premium Mid-level” brand, similar to Volkswagen or Volvo on our shores.

  • avatar
    KixStart

    CeeDragon: “But… if I’m a GM senior executive, then my compensation plan only pays out if I meet some metrics THIS fiscal year.”

    Well, we can hardly expect those execs to live on their pitiful base salaries alone.

  • avatar
    KatiePuckrik

    This article really befuddles me. I drove 2 Ford Focuses for work conferences and I’ve never been more disappointed with a car in all my life.

    The Ford Focus’ interior had cheap grade plastics and a “half arsed” feel to it. I’d understand if these plastics were in a Fiesta or Ka because they were DESIGNED to be cheap little knockabouts, but not a small family hatchback. I found the ride unresponsive, mainly due to the car being quite heavy. The fuel economy was poor and gearstick felt awful. Now I do know why the Ford Focus does sell well in the UK (hint: rhymes with “viscounts”) but as a car it’s pretty poor. A Honda Civic or Toyota Auris is pretty much the same pricing and a far superior car to boot. Hell, you could buy a Renault megane for about 25% less than a Ford Focus and have a similar amount of stuff on the car (note: reliability will be slightly lower than the Ford)

    Now if these Ford cars are what Americans want, then I can only wonder how poor the cars Stateside are! My father has a Ford Mondeo and continually laments how poor the car is and is looking for another Toyota the moment he can get rid of the Mundano! I don’t doubt that Ford have some world class engineers, they do. I just wish they’d stop letting accountants loose on the cars. The Ford Focus really could have been a great car, but its cheapness lets it down.

  • avatar
    guyincognito

    The problem with the Focus’ introduction here wasn’t so much with the value engineers. It was more a matter of a totally mismanaged launch. Some things had to be changed for crash, for UAW assembly, dynamics tweaked, cost taken out, etc. It was rushed, the changes were poorly managed, and proper design validation was not done.

    If instead of taking a made for Europe design and trying impliment on the fly design changes to rush it into production in the US, they did an upfront world platform design where all these issues were flushed out at the beginning and properly tested and suppliers sourced and assembly plant trials conducted this process would go much more smoothly and the US and Europe could both have a great Focus/Mondeo/Madza 3/Mazda 6/Volvo S40/S60/etc. This would even allow for minor changes to be incorporated into the platform to satisfy the different markets without huge cost, timing, or quality issues. Theres a reason why Toyota can sell a Corolla all over the world.

    The reason this didn’t happen and doesn’t happen at Ford is the systemic bureaucratic, everybody’s hand in the pot, indecisive, cya, cancer that will be difficult if not impossible for Mullaly to cure. He could at least start by front loading program resources like the revamped again, and again product development process always says to do but is never followed instead of focusing (pun intended) all the resources on removing pennies from languishing products in exchange for higher warranty costs.

  • avatar
    Cavendel

    You are all too harsh on the Focus. I leased a 2000 Focus Wagon. It was inexpensive and fun transportation. I had the car for 3 years and 80,000 km and never had one mechanical problem.

    There were many recalls, but if you save them up, they can be done in two easy trips to the dealer where they will change the oil and wash the car.

    My wife seemed to find the smell of the car quite nauseating, but she was pregnant, and sometimes found me nauseating too. The seats were poor and the plastics hard, but it was a total riot to drive fast.

    The car had a fantastic start to life in the Americas. They just didn’t improve it year over year (I think that Honda is the only company that can get away with letting a car go year over year without updates).

  • avatar
    FreeMan

    Katie- I think you pegged it. The European Fords are still below the European brands in quality, but they’re still light years ahead of the American Fords.

  • avatar
    geeber

    Actually, every quality study I’ve seen shows that European Fords are quite competitive with other European makes in quality. They also do quite well in comparison tests, too.

  • avatar
    Martin Schwoerer

    When I do consulting work, the first thing I tell a client is: You don’t really need me. Your company already knows everything it needs to know. Your only problem is: you’re not reaping your own knowledge properly.

    It’s only a shtick — but it’s true.

    Ford knows how to build good cars, as Sajeev eloquently pointed out.

    Assuming, for example, the built-in-China S-Max bares a decent resemblance to the original Euro version, Ford also knows how to build good cars for a super-low price.

    I think it was Karesh who wrote about intelligent versus stupid companies. He was talking about processes: an intelligent company knows how to learn, and how to teach. If Mullaly wants to succeed, he will have to force Detroit to learn from its overseas affiliates.

  • avatar
    KatiePuckrik

    Geeber,

    I’ve also read the GM’s quality and reliability is on par with Toyota and Honda’s.

    I also read that Jesus Christ was adopted, but I think someone might have been pulling my leg? :oS

  • avatar
    tankd0g

    Isn’t the euro Focus just the Mazda 3?

  • avatar
    Justin Berkowitz

    @Sajeev Mehta:
    Thanks for this article. As you’ve seen, people on the interwebs have been whispering about this kind of thing for some time but no one has addressed it directly.

    @Katie Puckrik:
    I’m surprised to hear what you’re saying, because my friends in the UK and on the Continent feel differently about the Fords than you do. That said, I have observed and read about differences in interior quality between lower and higher specced versions of the same car.

    Have you driven or sat in the new Mondeo? I also would expect the refreshed Focus coming out soon to have a far better interior than the one in the car you were in.

    @OldandSlow
    When Ford brought the XR4ti over to America, and they plopped it down in Mercury showrooms, the dealers were positively confused. Salesmen would routinely shift customers coming in for the Merkur from “that little 4-cylinder foreign economy car” to the larger, ostensibly better value V8 Cougar. The dealers are not of the European mindset and have no idea how to deal with those customers. They’re accustomed to selling to the same people that have been buying American cars for years (see the current blog post) and expect big, cheap, and cushy. Would enthusiasts come into the showroom for Euro Fords? Well, yes, but the dealer could very well drive them away.

  • avatar
    KatiePuckrik

    Mr Berkowitz,

    I haven’t driven the new Mondeo but my father’s Mondeo is the last generation and I wasn’t impressed, to be honest with you. It’s a OK car and the only reason it sells well is because of its discounts. Comparatively, I’d rather go for a VW Passat or a Honda Accord. Admittedly, the Accord is a touch more expensive, but you can see where the money goes!

  • avatar
    tankd0g

    Side note; I think James May loves Focus STs and Modeos :)

  • avatar
    Steve_S

    Mullaly is looking to have one Ford in the future so condensing platforms and utilizing all of Ford’s assets (including Ford of Europe and Mazda).

    I hope that Mullaly has some definite plans for his three brands Ford > Mercury > Lincoln because Mercury and Lincoln are severely hurting and Ford is only getting by. GM is doing this with their Saturn brand which will be identical to Opel. No reason to not do it with Mercury.

  • avatar
    Sajeev Mehta

    Katie: Everyone I met in London either liked the Focus/Mondeo or had nothing bad to say about them. I was there for a month, and I swear to you that will never happen if you spend a month here in the USA.

    Your impressions of the Focus/Mondeo seem like mine about US-spec’d Honda Accords or Civics. They are nice machines overall, beancounted here and there, but spending more for a Volvo C30, Audi A4, VW Passat, etc would net you a nicer car…but price sells cars (esp low lease payments).

    I expect a Mercury Mondeo would fare well against a Camry XLE or Accord EX. Or a Focus vs. a Civic. Or a Focus ST vs. a GTI. Not to mention Euro-Fords seem pretty reliable overall, not sure the German makes can say that. (Even the Transit seems way more reliable/cost effective than the Sprinter)

    America is primed for a premium (by Detroit standards) marque and Mercury is ready to take it. The 1970s were bad: the Capri and Pantera didn’t have a chance. The 1980s Merkurs were much better for the times: even my father considered an XR4ti (Sierra) but found the American muscle-car style and strong value proposition of a Cougar XR-7 hard to beat.

    But the Cougar flagship is dead. Considering Mercury has nothing impressive these days, history can be proven wrong this time around.

  • avatar
    Nemphre

    “I think that Honda is the only company that can get away with letting a car go year over year without updates”

    There are only 3 cases in history where that has happened; the NSX, S2000, and Integra. The only sort-of mainstream model there is the Integra. I don’t know how they kept it going for as long they did, even after having owned one. Maybe the Type R gave it some street cred.

    As for the current Focus. I didn’t even drive it when I went to test drive because the interior was just so terribly depressing. The used one I saw there was even worse. 1 year old and already wearing away. I could never own a car that gets me down whenever I sit inside it, unless it was out of financial necessity.

  • avatar
    KatiePuckrik

    Mr Mehta,

    I think it’s safe to say we have differing opinions on Ford’s Euro offerings (either that or what you’re trying to say is “I’m a freak!” lol), but one thing I do agree with is that Ford need to bring those cars to the United States on the basis of this one principle:

    their current cars don’t sell, give these a go.

    So what I’d do sell the Taurus/500 as a Mercury and sell the Mondeo/Focus as a Ford. The more different the car is the more people will try it. Mr Mullaly’s key goal is to revive the ailing Blue oval brand and the best way to do that is introduce a new product to show how the “old” Ford has gone and “new” Ford is born.

    OK, that sounded rather pretenious, but you know what I mean!

  • avatar
    umterp85

    Katie: I too was surprised at your Focus and Mondeo comments—thanks for clarifying that these were older versions. During trips to the UK, I have driven both the Focus and the new Mondeo and found them to be very solid and fun to drive. Hopefully Mulally can find the key to better integrating Ford’s global assets so they can be better leveraged in the US.

  • avatar

    Maybe Ford can’t bring the Euro Focus over here part for part – I’m OK with that; it’s a sub-$17k car here. However, why on God’s green earth did they have to style them so differently? If nothing else, keep the same frame/motor combo, I think they’re fine, keep the interior, OK, but for craps sake just make the US Focus look the same as the Euro Focus!!! The new US Focus makes me want to vomit and poke my eyes out, while the across the pond they have rather handsome automobiles. What on earth is that all about?

    The Saturn model hasn’t proven itself to work yet, and I believe they’re losing money on the Opels they’re selling here now, so I don’t expect Ford will follow suit quite yet.

  • avatar
    KatiePuckrik

    umterp85,

    The Focus was the current generation. there may have been a few facelifts since then, but essentially the same car.

    It’s shame, because I’ll give a car credit or a pounding if it deserves it (The Toyota Avensis is shockingly boring!) but if Ford are making worse cars than that Focus in the world’s biggest and most profitable market, then it’s little wonder they are in trouble. I hated the styling (halfway between a coupe and a hatchback. Be one or the other!!!!!) and the interior! Like Mr Nemphre said, and I totally agree, if I had to get into an interior like that everyday, it would have to be out of financial necessity. It really was bad, in my opinion! What made the interior worse for me, was the way they put some wood trim on top of the plastics. It was like putting a garnish of alfalfa sprouts on top of a Big Mac!

    Mr Kazoomaloo,

    GM do lose a lot of money on the imported Opels because they don’t make them Stateside. They’re made in Germany and exported. And, as I’m sure everyone is aware (except GM management), the Euro is at an all time high against the U.S Dollar. Which exacerbates the lack of profitability of the Opels in the United States.

  • avatar

    A good idea, in theory, Sajeev, but not in practice. Ford has been bringing European models over here for almost 40 years: Capri, Fiesta, Sierra (XR4Ti), Granada (Scorpio), Mondeo (Contour), Cougar, and Focus. Only the last had any serious success, and even then the styling eventually had to be toned down for American tastes.

    As I am fond of saying, Americans *think* they want European cars, but they really don’t. True European cars are too small, too radically styled and too underpowered for American tastes. Note the success (or lack thereof) of European staples like the VW Golf and Opel Astra (when it was brought here as the Pontiac LeMans). There’s a reason European automakers don’t bring cars like the BMW 1-series hatchback and VW Golf Plus to the US. Saturn’s just dipping their toe into the water, and while the Aura may do OK, it certainly wouldn’t do well in Euro-friendly 2.0 or TDI form.

    GM has the right idea: Platform sharing. Building market-specific cars off common platforms (ie Cobalt, Astra) is the way to go. I will be amazed if the new Saturn Astra sells enough to rival US best-sellers like the Civic and Corolla. Build it (and build it well) as a 2.2 liter sedan, and then you might see six-figure yearly sales.

    FWIW, Ford says they will re-integrate the US and European Focuses around 2011, give or take.

  • avatar
    daveyh

    Katie
    For about the first time I found myself disagreeing with you, then you clarified and said it was the last generation Mondeo. I’ve just got the new one (2 weeks ago), and already decided that I want to be buried in it when it’s my time to go. It’s a very different vehicle to that last one – looks are stunning, the feel is solid, interior is about the best I’ve seen, and the driving is outstanding. Take your Dad to a Ford dealership (don’t go to an Essex one – too many Ford employees there so the dealers don’t have to work at it), and get him to test drive before ordering the Toyota.

  • avatar
    geeber

    KatiePuckrik: I’ve also read the GM’s quality and reliability is on par with Toyota and Honda’s.

    I also read that Jesus Christ was adopted, but I think someone might have been pulling my leg? :oS

    I’m going by the European JD Powers survey, as well as a survey conducted by one of the major British auto magazines (can’t remember whether it was Top Gear or Car). Overall, Ford scored on par with other European marques.

    And here in the U.S., even the domestic Fords are more reliable than the European marques. And that’s not just from surveys – every independent mechanic I’ve asked has said the same thing.

    Also, the last-generation Focus received rave reviews in every European magazine I read. The Mondeo didn’t do too badly, either.

    Sajeev Mehta: Mercury is doomed by Ford’s structure. Ford won’t spend the money to give Mercury unique models (actually, now it CAN’T spend the money to give Mercury unique models).

    If Ford does give Mercury unique models, however, and said models are a success, then Ford dealers will immediately demand a similar version.

    Which will eliminate the reason for Mercury to exist.

    Also, note that the Opel-based Saturns haven’t been setting the world in fire in the sales race. People who are looking for European-inspired sedans aren’t shopping at Saturn dealers, and people who are shopping for Saturns won’t spend the extra money for the upgraded vehicle.

  • avatar
    Sajeev Mehta

    Katie: fair enough. I haven’t researched Ford in the UK but they are better off in public opinion than here in the US. As for selling the Taurus/500 as a Mercury, they are already doing that and its failing miserably. And who wants to spend $28k+ for a Ford when you can have a VW?

    The Euro-Fords need a Brand to go with. Lincoln-Mercury has a better dealer network for a niche player, and an entire division that’s better suited to exclusive marketing of a niche product lineup.

  • avatar
    Sajeev Mehta

    A good idea, in theory, Sajeev, but not in practice. Ford has been bringing European models over here for almost 40 years: Capri, Fiesta, Sierra (XR4Ti), Granada (Scorpio), Mondeo (Contour), Cougar, and Focus. Only the last had any serious success, and even then the styling eventually had to be toned down for American tastes.

    Autonerd: you forgot the DeTomaso Pantera. That right there was Mercury’s finest hour. :)

    Sajeev Mehta: Mercury is doomed by Ford’s structure. Ford won’t spend the money to give Mercury unique models (actually, now it CAN’T spend the money to give Mercury unique models).

    If Ford does give Mercury unique models, however, and said models are a success, then Ford dealers will immediately demand a similar version.

    geeber: and that’s pretty much why it’ll never happen. The corporate culture, dealer infighting (Ford dealers hate the Lincoln Mark LT) and lack of money kill it off.

    But still, how much of Mercury is a liability outside of the Lincoln-Mercury division? I think its a zero-cost brand in need of a product line to go with.

  • avatar
    nino

    I’m confused here.

    First of all, Saturn, AS OF YET, have not imported any Opels to sell here as Saturns. When (and IF) the Astra shows up here, it’ll be the first.

    Second, isn’t the Volvo C30 and the Mazda3 built on the same platform as the Euro Focus? Further, isn’t the Volvo’s Turbo 5 engine the same engine as the Euro Focus ST engine? So, I’m not understanding WHY it would be difficult to meet US standards if Ford decided to sell the Euro Focus here, WHY it would cost $35,000, and WHY couldn’t they have a plant (the same one that builds the Mazda3 here) that could build the Focus here?

    The Volvo C30 starts out at around $23,000 and goes to around $30,000 and that’s imported and the Mazda3 tops out at $24,000 with every option.

    I think it’s viable.

  • avatar
    whatdoiknow1

    It was not too long ago that you actually needed to travel to Europe to see for yourself that both Ford and GM made and sold betters cars across the pond than they do in their home market.

    Today this is a known fact to too many potential American Customers. Both Ford and GM must now contend with the “F$%K you” factor! The fact that “OUR” auto companies show our own market less respect than those across the sea give many of us another reason to turn our backs on the “so-called” domestics.

    When you compare the cars these companies sell in other markets to the garbage they push in the USA. You get the impression that Ford and GM actually believe Americans are just plain stupid and do NOT understand value.

    “Sell that crap in America, they will buy anything”! On the other hand those Europeans demand better products so we build and sell them there.
    Guess what Ford, I demand a better product also and someone else is selling it right here in YOUR home market!
    Sorry but you get NO sale!

  • avatar
    Thomas Minzenmay

    I’ll give you my (German) perspective:

    While the new Mondeo is getting rave reviews, the Focus is just among the competitors for hatch-backs. The Golf is still the undisputed #1 with the Focus nowhere in sight. Here are some sales numbers for August in Germany:

    VW Golf: 16817
    Opel Astra: 6546
    Audi A3: 5290
    Mercedes A-Class: 5248
    Mercedes B-Class: 4461
    BMW 1-Series: 4039
    Ford Focus: 3446

    You may say that this is due to the fact that people always rather buy the domestic product (and with VW it’s true to some extend) but in Germany, Ford Europe is also perceived as being German (just like Opel). Anyway, if the Focus can’t compete with the Golf in Germany/Europe, how is it supposed fare in the hatch-back unfriendly US of A?

    We’ll have to see how the new Mondeo does, but that seems like a much better choice for America IMHO. And AFAIK, the next gen Fusion and the next gen Mondeo will indeed be the same car (I’ve read that somewhere). That’ll probably be too little, too late (for Mercury anyway) and looking at the history it’ll also be stripped down to be able to offer it for a cheaper price.

    Side note: This also shows that the product cycles at Ford North America are quite long, or in other words, they don’t give a shit about their product as long as it’s cheap.

  • avatar
    Sajeev Mehta

    Nino: I read somewhere that–because of the synergies you mentioned–Ford admitted that bringing over the Euro-Focus wasn’t more expensive than the 2008 US-Focus redesign. Wish I could find that article again.

  • avatar
    NickR

    Link Windswords said, why don’t they just get duplicate sets of tooling for the body and some other bits, and order larger quantities of the smaller bits, and build them here? Or Mexico I guess. Isn’t one of the benefits of being a multinational supposed to be that you can ‘pass things round’?

  • avatar
    umterp85

    Geeber: I was typing a similar reposne on Ford domestic and Euro quality and you beat me to the punch…thanks for saving me the type strokes !.

    In fact Ford quality is improving (although it would take a directive from Jesus Christ for some to admit Ford can do anything positive)—they need the get the product right (and soon) to turn the ship around in the US.

  • avatar
    Nemphre

    “WHY couldn’t they have a plant (the same one that builds the Mazda3 here)”

    Well, the Mazda3 is built in Japan, but I agree that they should be able to find somewhere to build these things in the US. There ought to be plenty of factory capacity, what with their sales going down the tubes and all.

  • avatar
    tankd0g

    Ford Germany is almost a place holder, take a look at their web site, they don’t offer hot versions of anything. I would be more interested to see the British hatchback sales.

  • avatar
    durailer

    Sajeev,

    I’m with you on this one, I made a comment calling for a euro-overhaul of the Mercury lineup months ago.

    One reader pointed out that it didn’t work for Merkur in the ’90s, so it won’t work for Mercury now… but I beg to differ. There was a huge stigma attached to Merkur as it was perceived to be some fly-by-night new carmaker coming out of Europe, whereas Mercury’s got full service and support back home.

    Like you said, today’s Mercury doesn’t stand for anything… they’re only slightly restyled Fords, and the sales are so low that there’s hardly any justification of the brand’s existence. They don’t even bother selling them in Canada anymore.

    Use platform sharing and world engines to build Europe’s best here in North America. Mercury Mondeo sounds nice, doesn’t it? The cars will be premium, not luxury, perfect for what Mercury needs to be (and will push Lincoln back to where it needs to be).

    Here’s an idea: revive the Cougar by starting off with ye’ olde Mustang, but give it independent rear suspension, a few high-tech goodies inside, and sleeker-than-Jaguar styling. You won’t get a 500 hp variant, but it will be Merc’s halo car for ‘pace and grace’.

  • avatar
    Sajeev Mehta

    Here’s an idea: revive the Cougar by starting off with ye’ olde Mustang, but give it independent rear suspension, a few high-tech goodies inside, and sleeker-than-Jaguar styling. You won’t get a 500 hp variant, but it will be Merc’s halo car for ‘pace and grace’.

    Me likey. But…

    If Mercury gets reinvigorated with American metal, the Euro transplants get weaker in return. One of the problems with Merkur’s Scorpio/XR4ti was the radical 1986 Sable and turbocharged/5.0 Cougar XR-7 offered a similar car for a much better value. Both Mercs sold well, well enough to make Lincoln-Mercury long for the good old days.

    Now more than ever, branding and product “focus” is important for Lincoln-Mercury.

  • avatar
    Thomas Minzenmay

    tankd0g:

    Ford Europe sells exactly the same cars all over Europe. The only difference is that in the UK, the steering wheel is on the wrong side.

  • avatar
    tankd0g

    Thomas: $25,000 Euro for a Focus, are they kidding? Does Germany put big tarrifs on non German cars or something?

  • avatar
    Landcrusher

    IF

    If the UAW plants in the US make as good a car as the japanese…

    If Ford knows how to design a desirable car…

    If the dollar is at historic lows…

    THEN

    Then any MBA who can work a spreadsheet should be able to figure out that they should be EXPORTING cars from the US to the EU.

    Then they should be able to sell the cheaper cars quite easily at a discount and still have high margins.

    BUT

    If the premises are not true, the conclusion likely will not be either.

  • avatar
    KatiePuckrik

    Thomas Minzenmay :
    September 27th, 2007 at 11:56 am

    tankd0g:

    Ford Europe sells exactly the same cars all over Europe. The only difference is that in the UK, the steering wheel is on the wrong side.

    I think you mean “the correct side”? :O)

  • avatar
    alanp

    “For one thing, the weak US dollar makes a mockery of any Ford exec stupid (brave?) enough to suggest UK to US Ford exports. A UK buyer can pick-up a new Ford Mondeo “Edge” with a 2.0-liter engine for around ₤16k. At today’s exchange rate, that’s $32,253.18. Add on another $5k or so for federalization and transportation, and you’re looking at a US sticker price that’s nearasdammit $40k.

    A US buyer can pick-up a loaded BMW 325i for the same wedge. By the same token, you’d have a very hard time indeed spending that much money on a Lincoln MKZ. ”

    I suspect the BMW and other European cars will soon reflect the change in the Euro valuation. With large US price increases. We’re going to pay for the trade deficits one way or another..

  • avatar
    Wheely

    Autonerd hit the nail on the head. Americans don’t really want the more typical European cars because they don’t appeal to the more conservative US taste. While hatchbacks and wagons are staples in Europe, we prefer either a trunk, or a wagon on stilts. Although most driving is done with one person in the car, we want something big. Look at the size of even formerly smallish cars like the Accord. And although the speed limits are laughably low, we want something with a big engine, because what if we need to merge onto a freeway where people are flying by at a whopping 70mph! Gas is still relatively cheap, so who cares about fuel economy. Oh, and of course we need a slushbox.

    Most of all, our tastes are too conservative for many European cars. Just look at the flack Bangle is getting for trying to add a little interest to what used to be a visually boring BMW line.

    Face it: the TTAC readership interests represent a niche. Most people want some combination of big, reliable, cheap and traditional, maybe with a splash of chrome or shiny wheels. Europeans want something practical, fuel efficient, reliable and modern, maybe with an innovative look.

    Different strokes for different folks.

  • avatar
    omnivore

    Landcrusher … I’ve often wondered myself why Ford (and GM) aren’t taking advantage of spare plant capacity in the US and the weak US dollar to built Euro-spec cars here and exporting them to Europe. GM does a little bit of that … I believe the Opel GT, a twin of the Saturn Sky, is built in the US and exported to Europe (along with the Daewoo 2GX, exported to Korea), but that’s hardly a volume model. It seems like the Astra should be built in Spring Hill and sent overseas, doesn’t it?

  • avatar
    kkop

    Real world price of a Mondeo Edge (just google it) is closer to 14,000 pounds. Also, that price includes VAT (17.5% afaik in UK).

    So, now we’re looking at abt. $24K for a Mondeo (before tax).

  • avatar
    Sajeev Mehta

    Face it: the TTAC readership interests represent a niche. Most people want some combination of big, reliable, cheap and traditional, maybe with a splash of chrome or shiny wheels. Europeans want something practical, fuel efficient, reliable and modern, maybe with an innovative look.

    Wheely: that’s precisely why the Euro-Fords should join Mercury. I’m not saying to replace the Fusion,Taurus, etc with Euro-Fords, I want to see Mercury play the same niche as VW, Volvo, Saab, etc…

    These cars aren’t for everyone. That was the rationale for creating Mercury back in 1939.

    It worked before and it could work again. (except for all the reasons mentioned in the editorial)

  • avatar

    Nino –

    One could argue that the Aura is sort-of an Opel, though considering it has different engines and suspensions, one might well lose that argument.

    The new Vue, however, is pretty much identical to the Opel Antara; differences are engine (Europe gets a diesel, we get V6s), suspension tuning, and the placement of radio and A/C are reversed (but interior is otherwise identical). I’d say that counts, no?

    Aaron

  • avatar

    BTW, when I lived and worked in Britain (What Car Magazine, winter 93-94), Fords were considered domestic cars, and the Escort was the best-selling car in Britain. Don’t know if that’s relevant to the conversation, but there you are.

  • avatar
    Hank

    Dude, just fax over the blueprints and get to work already.

  • avatar
    unleashed

    KatiePuckrik, like others, I don’t understand the basis for your criticism of the Euro-Focus.
    Since its introduction the model has consistently stayed at the top of the charts for its fun-to-drive qualities.
    The German TUV has also found it to be an exceptionally reliable car.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    I have to disagree with this piece. In large part, European cars have little or no place in the American mainstream. The differences between the two markets are vast:

    -Americans prefer trunks; Europeans prefer hatchbacks

    -Fuel in Europe is heavily taxed, which favors smaller motors. Americans pay less and want more power

    -Americans want (need) automatic transmissions, which increases the need for displacement, while Europeans can get more from less by shifting themselves. Again, not much place for the smaller engine choices in the US market.

    -Europeans have limited parking in urban areas; Americans much less so. Americans want larger cars with larger seats and more storage space for their runs to Home Depot, Costco, etc.

    -Not sure how large of a factor this plays, but we are now a fair bit, er, larger than most of our European counterparts. (Listen to the Surgeon General and believe the hype — we are in the fast lane to getting fatter than Christmas turkeys.) The Europeans are racing to catch up with us in the weighting game, but for now, we have a sizable (pun intended) segment of the population that wants/needs a larger vehicle just to be able to fit.

    -Americans tend to pay for their own cars; the mid-sized sedan market in Europe is largely a fleet-oriented market for middle-class businesspeople. (Company cars are a common perk in Europe, due to the taxation rules.) They also drive less. This makes reliability more important to Americans, many of whom will trade performance and sportiness for comfort and a safe bet.

    All in all, this does not bode well for European Fords and GM products. Yes, a few of us like the specialty niche cars such as BMW and Mercedes, but that is a tiny fraction of the overall US car market, and those buyers are at the near-luxury and luxury end of the scale. The low rent buyer doesn’t want that styling and those features.

    The sales volume leaders in the US retail mid-sized sedan class — Toyota, Honda and Nissan — all have US-specific designs. The less successful firms — VW, Mazda, Mitsubishi, etc. — all market “world” cars to Americans who believe they are from a different, bigger and better world.

    GM and Ford have the right idea in focusing on building US designs to US customers, they just blow it in the actual execution. They need to build a US-oriented car that is so fantastically better than the competition — not just sorta comparable but absolutely head-and-tails above them, in both product and service — that buyers who left the fold are willing to give them another chance. If they don’t do that, they’re dead meat, and we’ll be having Detroit and Dearborn Barbeque for many, many meals to come.

  • avatar
    Johnster

    When the original Ford Contour/Mercury Mystique (mistake) were sold in the U.S. they really were too small and uncompetitive, especially the cramped back seats.

    But then, the redesigned models that addressed these short-comings were never offered in the U.S. Does anyone else see the irony in the situation?

    It was the kind of bone-headed move that you would expect from GM.

  • avatar
    threeer

    And please do not consider the Pontiac LeMans to be anything near to an Opel Kadett. Sure, the basic shape said Opel, but the rest of the car was pure garbage. Having grown up in Germany, I’ve always hoped that the Americans would warm up to the European style of driving, but without a massive shift in economics, it ain’t gonna happen. Much as I try to fight it, there really is truth that the Americans don’t truly want the European driving model. Want more proof of what Americans want? Look no further than the new ’08 Honda Accord. Bigger is better. And that’s too bad, as there are numerous small cars that are a real hoot to drive. I always attempt to make sure I rent a manual tranny diesel when I return home to Germany…something nearly unheard of in the States. Meanwhile, I am keeping my fingers crossed for the Saturn Astra…I’ve a real soft spot in my heart for Opels. It’s all my father drove while in Germany (and always a white Opel Rekord…always!).

  • avatar
    taxman100

    You want to know why Mercury is dying? It is because they have walked away from their customer, or a better way to put it, their customers left them.

    Mercury has always been the little bit nicer, little more conservative version of a Ford. Originally Mercury was marketed almost exclusively to men. This idea of marketing to women is not going to work.

    For 30 years Mercury has been the Marquis/Grand Marquis, and the “Marquising” of the other platforms sold under the Mercury brand. They sold like crazy for years until Ford screwed it up by neglecting Mercury, and taking Lincoln downmarket.

    Simply put, Mercury is the Grand Marquis. Without that platform and that market, Mercury is dead. Importing European Fords will not work, as they are too small, too expensive, too stiff suspension, and the styling is too European.

  • avatar
    P.J. McCombs

    This usually comes up within the first few posts on a piece that compares UK-to-US prices, so forgive me if I’ve missed something.

    But… isn’t extrapolating the US price of a Mondeo from its UK MSRP an apples-and-oranges fallacy? An Audi 2.0T FSI stickers for £19,830. By simple conversion, that would make it a $40,182 car in the US, instead of a $25,340 one.

    Similarly, a $34,385 Chrysler 300C is £33,040 = $66,949, a $37,400 Lexus RX 350 is £31,933 = $64,703, and so forth.

    I don’t know the nitty-gritty of the UK’s aggressive new-car tax structure, but it seems to me that our theoretical US Mondeo’s MSRP would only be 5-10% higher than its UK price in pounds.

    *Especially* if Ford would idle production of some of its redundant products (Pick one: Edge or Escape, Ranger or Explorer Sport Trac, Freestyle or Flex, Taurus or [sorry, taxman] Crown Vic…) and brought the tooling here (and by here, naturally, I mean Mexico).

    Re: Americans being leery of those furrin’ Fords, I think the US market is far more ripe for these transplants than it was in the ’80s and ’90s. Vehicle categories aren’t nearly as rigid as they once were. Hatchbacks no longer recall memories of ’70s gas lines.

    Mazda5 sales have exceeded Mazda’s expectations; the xB similarly surprised Toyota. So why not the C-Max or S-Max? Hot hatches sell like hotcakes; why not the Focus ST? The Mondeo’s rear-seat space is now on par with a Fusion’s–the Euro family-sedan class has gotten much bigger and fatter since the Contour/Mystique was coceived.

    Another poster hit a final nail on the head: transplants like these can only succeed when dealership staff doesn’t treat them like second-rate foreign curio. Wipe out Mercury’s product line, and start with a clean Euro slate, and you’d have no chance of Joe Salesman stymying your strategy by steering customers into a car he’s more familiar with and doesn’t have to learn new stuff about (the rebadged Taurus).

    Will it happen? Not in a million years, and besides, I give Mercury ten at most. But if FoMoCo were a more agile business, I don’t think it would be nearly as unfeasible as this (well-written, no offense!) editorial portrays.

  • avatar
    Sajeev Mehta

    Pch101 : your points are valid, I think they are too general for a brand specific plan for Mercury…maybe if entry level German makes and the Japanese weren’t doing so well I’d agree.
    ———————————————

    Americans prefer trunks; Europeans prefer hatchbacks

    Mondeos and Foci are available as traditional four doors. Like the Contour before it, the Mondeo should only come here as a 4dr sedan. (well maybe a wagon too)

    ———————————————
    Fuel in Europe is heavily taxed, which favors smaller motors. Americans pay less and want more power

    Diesel is an emerging fuel for America, and many automakers are rushing for small diesels in Trucks and some cars. As long as global warming and gas prices are popular topics fuel economy will be a strong selling point.

    Mercury gets to arrive to the party on time and in style with my plan.

    ———————————————
    Americans want (need) automatic transmissions, which increases the need for displacement, while Europeans can get more from less by shifting themselves. Again, not much place for the smaller engine choices in the US market.

    Not an issue. Just like all the (successful) German cars, only the larger engines (and diesels) come here. Not to mention that automatics are available on both models.
    ———————————————

    Europeans have limited parking in urban areas; Americans much less so. Americans want larger cars with larger seats and more storage space for their runs to Home Depot, Costco, etc.

    Your comments are real general: it overlooks the fact the Mondeo and Focus are larger cars by European standards, its not like I expect Mercury to sell a Fiesta or Ka. You see plenty of people from all walks of life driving Mondeo-sized cars here in America.

    The Mondeo is waaaaay bigger than the Contour/Mistake. The new Focus is pretty big too. And you rarely see real large cars with gigantic overhangs these days.
    ———————————————

    Americans tend to pay for their own cars; the mid-sized sedan market in Europe is largely a fleet-oriented market for middle-class businesspeople. (Company cars are a common perk in Europe, due to the taxation rules.) They also drive less. This makes reliability more important to Americans, many of whom will trade performance and sportiness for comfort and a safe bet.

    They choose Toyotas. That’s fine, it’s not the target market of my hypothetical Mercury.
    Plenty of brands do well selling the anti-Toyota…

    Zoom-zoom makes money on a regular basis. Don’t forget that.
    ———————————————

    The sales volume leaders in the US retail mid-sized sedan class — Toyota, Honda and Nissan — all have US-specific designs. The less successful firms — VW, Mazda, Mitsubishi, etc. — all market “world” cars to Americans who believe they are from a different, bigger and better world.

    Ford needs to compete with the Toyondas of the world. Mercury needs to go niche-player if it wants to thrive/survive.
    ———————————————

    GM and Ford have the right idea in focusing on building US designs to US customers, they just blow it in the actual execution.

    No argument here, but there’s no way in hell Mercury can be a relevant brand if its tied to the hip with Ford or Lincoln. Ditto with Buick, Pontiac, etc. and GM.
    ———————————————

    They need to build a US-oriented car that is so fantastically better than the competition…in both product and service — that buyers who left the fold are willing to give them another chance. If they don’t do that, they’re dead meat…

    Okay, have you seen the 2008 Mondeo in the flesh? I swear that it’s the second coming of the 1986 Taurus.

    Cross my heart and hope to die on that one.CLICK HERE

  • avatar
    Sajeev Mehta

    Another poster hit a final nail on the head: transplants like these can only succeed when dealership staff doesn’t treat them like second-rate foreign curio. Wipe out Mercury’s product line, and start with a clean Euro slate, and you’d have no chance of Joe Salesman stymying your strategy by steering customers into a car he’s more familiar with and doesn’t have to learn new stuff about (the rebadged Taurus).

    Learn from the Merkur: kill off all the current Mercs and the Lincoln MKZ, problem solved. You wanna earn a paycheck, Mister Salesperson? You better get with the program.

    Maybe keep the Marquis since there’s no way a Mercury salesman would be dumb enough to tell a Mondeo buyer that a land yacht is a better alternative. And it’ll keep taxman happy. :)

    Ford dealers are the only sore spot here.

    Will it happen? Not in a million years, and besides, I give Mercury ten at most. But if FoMoCo were a more agile business, I don’t think it would be nearly as unfeasible as this (well-written, no offense!) editorial portrays.

    Hey if it can happen, the Pistonheads (and the thousands of Poseurs that go with) might actually be win one on Detroit’s behalf.

    One more time: the 2008 Mondeo is flippin’ sweet.

  • avatar
    Thomas Minzenmay

    tankd0g:

    Nope, that’s what you pay for a car in Europe. You can check out the German competition (Volkswagen) and you’ll see that they are even more expensive (not to mention BMW or Audi). And Germany isn’t even the most expensive country when it comes to cars in Europe. It’s hard to get a decent Golf/Rabbit for less than 30.000$.

    I can’t really tell you why that is. Is it because the cars in Europe are more refined? Is it just because of the weak Dollar? Or do consumers in Europe simply pay more for cars? Considering the fact that a German built Rabbit is much cheaper in the US than in Europe, I’d suppose that it’s a combination of all those points – which wouldn’t really help an European transplant in the US.

  • avatar
    Redbarchetta

    Sajeev Mehta your right that is a nice looking car I mean really nice, even my wife was really surprise, especially by the interior. These guys have no business sense leaving that over the pond and forcing crap on us here. I would never consider buying a Ford I hate them as a company but I would considering riding in one and renting it, provided it doesn’t drive like a Taurus. I assume it doesn’t since your driving tastes seem similar to mine. I love taking the Subie for a nice twisty exercise run at night, a perfect way to finish off a stressful day.

  • avatar
    jthorner

    The idea of using Mercury to market euro-Fords is not new, and it isn’t going to work.

    Mercury has often been the catch bucket for odd man out Ford products. They had the Nissan Quest rebadged as a Mercury Villager, they had some strange Australian thing being sold as a Capri (second incarnation), a Mexican built Mazda 323 became the Mercury Tracer and the Merkur as well as the original German Ford Mercury Capri.

    Some of those products sold ok, some were complete duds. The most successful Mercury models have been gussied up Fords.

    Sure Ford needs to manage itself like a real global company and share vehicles across continents where it makes sense. The Japanese have become very adept at this kind of thing with some models coming straight across (Corolla, Civic, Fit, etc.) and others being parts bin sources for US special versions (Camry, Accord).

    Ford has been on World Car kicks for decades now. The original Escort was supposed to be a world design. The Contour/Mondeo were twins. There was a huge Ford 2000 reorganization which was supposed to make Ford into a global engineering company. The Focus was supposed to be a world car, but diverged badly.

    Ford indeed needs to leverage the best of it’s design work from around the world, but simply importing Euro Fords and using them as the basis for a New And Improved Mercury lineup isn’t going to work. There is no good reason for the Ford Europe Focus and the Ford US Focus to be different cars, that is just dumb. Brands are built in the minds of customers over decades and generations, you don’t just turn them into something else with an advertising campaign. That was a big part of what killed Oldsmobile. GM tried to make it the brand for “Import Intenders”. So dumb it makes me crazy to contemplate.

  • avatar
    dean

    KatiePuckrick: Now I do know why the Ford Focus does sell well in the UK (hint: rhymes with “viscounts”) but as a car it’s pretty poor.

    I hate to pick a nit, but viscount is pronounced vi-count, with a silent s. ;)

    I’m with Sajeev. I like Euro cars — I like my cars small and maneuverable, with manual trannies. And I don’t buy into this need for ridiculous horsepower (oh, don’t get me wrong. I want it, but don’t need it). My Celica with “only” 140 HP never had a problem matching traffic speed in a freeway onramp (in fact I was usually hammering on the brakes because the asshole in front of me in his 300HP SUV was afraid to accelerate) and had no trouble greatly exceeding the speed limit up long 8% grades. I had little trouble passing cars on two lane mountain highways in BC (although I will concede that you had to anticipate the opportunity and begin accelerating before the coast was clear, especially on a grade).

  • avatar
    Flipper

    Its unnecessary to sell euro Fords as Mercurys . Mazda is doing it already. . . with the 3, and soon with the new 6.

  • avatar
    Sajeev Mehta

    Mazda is to the Euro-Mercury what a strong HR Department is to the UAW. That’s the worst part of my plan.

  • avatar
    Wheely

    Does anyone else have trouble with “Mercury” and “European Ford imports” in the same sentence? Somehow, I just don’t associate the Mercury brand with anything remotely innovative. When I think of Mercury I think of soft, cushy, chromy (but not blingy) rides for aging boomers.

    It’ll take a bit of a mindshift on Mercury to implement Sajeev’s plan. Maybe enough so that it would be better to start with another name/brand altogether.

  • avatar
    Sajeev Mehta

    The mindshift happens when Mercury dumps their current product line and goes for VW’s throat. Back in 1999, the “new-edge” Cougar was on its way to do just that. Let’s not go into the reasons why it failed.

    This time: no other choices, no wiggle room.

    That’s how you do it.

  • avatar
    jthorner

    ” The mindshift happens when Mercury dumps their current product line and goes for VW’s throat.”

    Brand image in the customer’s mind takes decades to develop and even longer to change. Maybe your idea would work on Fantasy Island :).

  • avatar
    jkross22

    Sajeev,

    A-M-E-N.

    Bring it on!

  • avatar
    Sajeev Mehta

    Brand image in the customer’s mind takes decades to develop and even longer to change.

    Question is: does Mercury have a brand image? What’s left to change?

    No question it will take a long time to get the brand developed, but Mercury is starting from scratch in my book.

  • avatar

    Lincoln-Mercury has offered so many “captive imports” (DeTomaso Pantera, various Capris, Mondeo/Mystique, the Nissan-based Villager minivan, Merkur) with so little success that if I were a Ford exec I would have a hard time working up a lot of enthusiasm for that idea.

    The problem for Mercury is that its product line seems to exist as a low-cost way of keeping Lincoln dealers alive. Lincoln being a more expensive product and not exactly setting the sales charts on fire, the Lincoln dealer network’s survival would be in serious jeopardy without Mercury. I’m not sure if Ford is in a position to jettison both divisions (although to some extent it would seem like no great loss).

  • avatar
    Sajeev Mehta

    The problem for Mercury is that its product line seems to exist as a low-cost way of keeping Lincoln dealers alive. Lincoln being a more expensive product and not exactly setting the sales charts on fire, the Lincoln dealer network’s survival would be in serious jeopardy without Mercury. I’m not sure if Ford is in a position to jettison both divisions (although to some extent it would seem like no great loss).

    All the more reason for a cohesive brand strategy with transplants across the board.

    Yeah, I know, when pigs fly. :)

  • avatar
    maxrent

    Another great one from Mr. Mehta. Thanks!

    As much as I like the Euro-Fords, IMO when the same (few)models get over to the states, they usually lose something in translation. The first gen Euro Focus hatch looked much sportier than what we got in here. The suspension looks jacked up, lack of any subtle styling.
    A notable exception to this impression were the Merkur from the ’80′s. They took those straight off the Autobahn and plopped them state-side!

  • avatar
    nino

    autonerd :
    September 27th, 2007 at 2:12 pm

    Nino –

    One could argue that the Aura is sort-of an Opel, though considering it has different engines and suspensions, one might well lose that argument.

    The new Vue, however, is pretty much identical to the Opel Antara; differences are engine (Europe gets a diesel, we get V6s), suspension tuning, and the placement of radio and A/C are reversed (but interior is otherwise identical). I’d say that counts, no?

    Aaron

    The Aura is based on the same platform as the Pontiac G6 and is built here.

    The new Vue is also built here, so neither one of them are imported. I believe that the new Vue and the Sky are EXPORTED to Europe.

  • avatar
    jthorner

    “Question is: does Mercury have a brand image?”

    Sure it does, Mercury is slightly nicer Fords for the person who wants something like a Ford offering a lot of vehicle for the money but a touch different and upscale. Every time Ford tries to make Mercury into something else it is a disaster.

    The recent attempt to make it the Ford brand for women is a complete dud as that branding exists only in the minds of a handful of FoMoCo highly paid experts.

    In any case, there is no way on this earth for Mercury to be reasonably spun into Ford’s European Brand in the US. As far as going after VW’s throat, the Japanese are already all over that one.

  • avatar
    Sajeev Mehta

    Sure it does, Mercury is slightly nicer Fords for the person who wants something like a Ford offering a lot of vehicle for the money but a touch different and upscale.

    Sounds good. But who besides car enthusiasts knows that? Considering I know several non-car people (GEN X) who think Toyota owns the popular Infiniti brand, they have about zero knowledge of who makes a Mercury, much less what it stands for. When I tell them that I own a Mercury, they look at me funny…like I just spoke a different language they can’t comprehend.

    Times have changed: Mercury isn’t doomed to mess up its transplants…its completely doomed no matter what it does.

    There’s only one hope for rejuvenation. And being an unknown quantity is both a good and bad thing.

  • avatar
    GMis4GoodManners

    I guess you seem to have forgotten all about the Merkur???

  • avatar
    Dynamic88

    “Question is: does Mercury have a brand image?”

    Yes and no. To boomers, and anyone older, we know that it’s suppossed to be an upscale Ford. Time was (in the 50s and maybe 60s) it was different enough to actually make one thing he had moved up by getting a Merc. Today, Mercury is to Ford as Dodge and Plymouth were to each other. Though, Merc still goes to the trouble of changing the grill and coming up with a separate model name – usually something starting with the letter M.

    For younger people, I agree that there is basically no brand image at all. No problem then, forming a new image where none exists, or it’s only a shadow of it’s former self.

    But since Ford doesn’t really have an immage either -excpet to the extent it’s seen as crap, why not just do this with Ford and jettison the LM division.

  • avatar
    Sajeev Mehta

    Yes and no. To boomers, and anyone older, we know that it’s suppossed to be an upscale Ford.Today, Mercury is to Ford as Dodge and Plymouth were to each other.

    Well put. And the Euro-Fords aren’t gonna appeal to boomers, they’re gonna appeal to GEN X and Y folks who are trained to buy imports.

    The conflict of interest between the old perception of Mercury and its potential with a new era of import-minded buyers isn’t very strong. (IMO)

    But since Ford doesn’t really have an immage either -excpet to the extent it’s seen as crap, why not just do this with Ford and jettison the LM division.

    Trying to sell the Euro Fords with regular Fords is just as stupid as selling Merkurs (as mentioned in the article) with Sables and Cougars.

    That lineup needs a separate brand to ensure its success, or it shall fail like all the others. And Mercury is an unknown quantity waiting for a real product lineup to go with.

  • avatar

    This editorial reflects many points that other Ford-o-philes and myself have to deal with all the time: the lack of the Euro Focus, the Fusion/Mondeo debate, and the whole “why does Europe get all the good Fords?!?” thing.

    Thanks, Sajeev, for putting in an article much of what many of us constantly have to put in forum posts. The bulk answers to the whole gaggle of predictable Euro Ford queries are:

    1. It’s not as simple as people think.

    2. America has blown off Euro Fords previously.

    The logic of making Mercury a division for trickling these cars over here-even to test-market them-has been a screaming point for myself and others for years. Mercuries are SUPPOSED to cost more than Fords, and are even marketed toward a young, hipper crowd than Ford/Chevy/Dodge plays to. These are the people that truly associate imports with pseudo-elitism, and see that most domestics are either too “blue collar” or are cursed by the ongoing (and essentially obsolete) perception of “domestic inferiority”.

    As Lincoln moves upmarket-and it must, soon-Mercury becomes possibly the most exciting division of Ford North America. We know Alan Mullaly wants to bring in some of the Euro Fords, and we also know that mainstream buyers don’t crave these kinds of drivers’ cars like enthusiasts do.

    Fine. Bring ‘em as Mercuries, in smaller allotments and without having to do massive retooling and investment that requires 500,000 units/year to break even. The dealerships are proven, and there’s about to be a large gap between the back-to-the-basics Fords and the forthcoming Lincolns.

  • avatar
    Dynamic88

    “Trying to sell the Euro Fords with regular Fords is just as stupid as selling Merkurs (as mentioned in the article) with Sables and Cougars.”

    Agreed. I was only suggesting selling Euro Fords instead of US Fords.

  • avatar
    jurisb

    You have to understand, a company,a country that is allergic to physical engineering, a company that would do anything just to look like a car manufacturer, would do any rebadge, engineering transfer etc, just to avoid building cars themselves. they would soon import chinese cherries and rebadge them as foci or whatever. how desperate are you ford? how impotent and imbecile if any given affiliate of yours can build cars better and it doesn`t matter if it is kangaroo ford or fritz ford. anywhere. except detroit. just keep banging… with your rappers. why would you need making cars, if you can sell rap music or google? mercury? emty promises…. today they even don`t bother to have a make up beyond c-pillar, just slap a badge on a mazda 6 based sedan…right.

  • avatar
    Sajeev Mehta

    Thanks Zanadude, now I wonder if Ford’s actually trying what its enthusiasts (all six of ‘em) want to see.

    Dynamic: I don’t think the Euro-Fords should (can) replace Ford’s lineup because they’re too small, too expensive to make, and WAY too light on the beancounting. These cars are better off on a small-time brand with narrower sales aspirations.

    Think WalMart vs. Target. Or WalMart vs. Pier 1 Imports.

  • avatar
    Dynamic88

    Good point.

  • avatar
    ex-dtw

    Everyone decries American cars as feeling cheap.

    But the truth is they feel cheaper because they ARE cheaper.

    It’s like that old joke, “Do these pants make my but look big? Whadya mean ‘Look big’? It is big”. (Or something like that).

  • avatar
    Terry Parkhurst

    Bakc more than 50 years, when Mercury was to Ford as Scion is to Toyota, the difference between a Mercury and a Ford was more than skin deep. Hot rodders – this was back before “street rods” or certainly “resto-rods” – preferred a Mercury flathead (so called since the valves weren’t in the cylinder heads) V8 because it had a bit hotter camshaft and higher compression (if memory serves).

    And the car looked different, with form following function. The old custom car builders did a thing where they dropped the body down over the frame rails and the 1949-’51 Mercury had a bit of that for better handling. Those were the cars known by auctioneers everywhere these days, as “the James Dean car,” since he drove a Mercury of that vintage in the seminal teen angst movie, “Rebel without a Cause.”

    Mercury got the idea from the late, great marque of Hudson, who dropped the body so far over the rails, it ensured that Hudson dominated the first few years of NASCAR, back when stock car racing was really just that.

    For Mercury to come back, it would have to somehow divorce itself from being something that middle-aged (or older) white people drive instead of a Buick. Mercury tried that with the most recent Marauder and it failed. Given how far back you have to go to remember when Mercury was anyone’s idea of a performance car – the days of the original Cougar perhaps, when it was a fairly successful race car in the Trans Am – the task is so Herculean as to be almost impossible.

  • avatar
    TaxedAndConfused

    Remember, todays Euro-Fords are VWs circa 2001. Maybe mercury should just sell itself to VW as another Satelite maker ?

    Mercury “Superb” anyone ?

  • avatar
    Sajeev Mehta

    Remember, todays Euro-Fords are VWs circa 2001.

    Taxed: Really? Maybe you can draw a connection to the Focus and a VW (I don’t see it) but the 2008 Mondeo? Design wise, there’s nothing VW about that ride.


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