I live in Canada. Ford stopped selling its Mercury brand here in 1999, and, to be quite frank, no one has missed it. GM finally killed Oldsmobile in 2001, and I'm sure wed be mourning Buick right now, if it weren't so huge in China. The Chrysler brand has two good cars in its whole line-up. One is the 300, which is based on a Mercedes platform, and the other is the Town and Country, which is just a clone of the Dodge Caravan.
While I'm on the subject of clones, I should mention Mercury's entire line-up. That's right, the whole thing. There is not one original car sold with a Mercury badge on it. Now, to be fair, the Mercury versions are styled more softly. Compare the new Ford Fusion and its massive chrome grille to the more subtle Mercury Milan.
So it can be argued that Mercury does serve a purpose, and to be honest I do prefer the Mercury in the above comparison, but it still seems like a waste of money to keep an entire brand alive just to offer a choice to the more shallow customers. They could still offer this choice to consumers through appearance packages, and even include Mercury badges, if they wanted to. This way, they wouldn't have to waste money on Mercury as a business, and could also abandon the shameless rebadging. Customers are never fond of it and it can often lead to a bad reputation.
The most confusing part is that Ford still seems to be looking to unload Volvo. The loyalty of Volvo's customers is legendary, and their cars are increasingly stylish. The XC60 has gotten good reviews, and it competes in a very hot segment. Volvo is exactly the kind of semi-luxury brand that Ford wants Mercury to be. It already shares products with both Lincoln and Ford, and would fit perfectly between them. Lincoln is in the process of turning itself around, but if it really wants to compete with the Germans and Lexus (and Cadillac, if all goes well for GM) it will need to invest in its own unique RWD platforms. This will raise the price of Lincolns, and make it sensible for Ford to actually have a semi-luxury brand.
But we all know that this semi-luxury brand wont be Mercury, the brand that was known for performance during its early years (circa 1940). I think it should be Volvo. Its funky, original, and has a great reputation. Its everything young couples want, and if they're as loyal as Volvos current customers, they'll buy them until they die, and teach their kids that there's no alternative. I don't think I need to tell you how valuable that is to a car company.
So why am I the only one who sees this?