Ford Motor Co. may be considering dropping the struggling Mercury brand as part of a move to focus the automaker's design and sales efforts on its Ford and Lincoln lines.
Ford officials declined to confirm reports that the company was reviewing such a plan, but acknowledged that they already had plans to shrink the Mercury lineup in an effort to make Lincoln the marquee brand for the company's Lincoln Mercury division.
"Our plans regarding Mercury have not changed," said Mark Truby, a Ford spokesman. "Like any good business, we constantly assess our business portfolio."
Dropping Mercury will be considered by the Detroit automaker's board of directors this summer, according to Bloomberg News, which first reported on the possibility Thursday.
The decision would follow previous moves in recent years to shrink the number of brands Ford produces. In March, the company sold its Swedish Volvo division to Zhejiang Geely Holding Co. of China. Previously it shed the Jaguar, Land Rover and Aston Martin nameplates.
Axing the Mercury brand "would streamline things for the company," said Kirk Ludtke, an analyst at CRT Capital Group in Stamford, Conn.
In a previous interview with The Times, Ford Chief Executive Alan Mulally said he was looking at ways to reorganize the company to be more global. That included cutting brands and slicing the number of vehicle platforms Ford produces, and then using those platforms to build cars that can be sold around the world. The new Ford Fiesta that is going on sale in the U.S. this summer is nearly identical to the one already sold in Europe. The same will hold true for the new-generation Ford Focus slated to roll out early next year.
"It would not be surprising to see Mercury go away. For years they have questioned what Mercury is and why does it exist," said Michelle Krebs, an analyst with auto information company Edmunds.com. "It is more cost-effective to focus precious marketing dollars on fewer brands."
The brand has just four vehicles, the mid-size Milan sedan, the Mariner and Mountaineer SUVs and the giant Grand Marquis sedan. Production of the Grand Marquis will end when Ford closes the Canadian factory where the car is built next year.
Mercury was established in 1939 by Edsel Ford, son of founder Henry Ford, to fill what he considered a void between the automaker's mass-market Ford brand and the upscale Lincoln line.
Sales peaked in 1978 at 579,498, but have fallen precipitously since then.
Mercury sold only 92,299 vehicles last year. By comparison, the Ford brand sold about 1.4 million.