A classic car is about to get even more rare. Remember the 1970 Mercury Cougar - a true icon of 20th century American highways? Who would have thought Ford would even consider dropping the brand? Yet, that was the buzz throughout the auto industry last week. From Automotive News to Consumer's Union, sources were reporting that Ford management will consider the proposal this summer as a belt-tightening measure.
The demise of Mercury will mean the end of an era for Ford. From one perspective, it seems like an odd time to make the cut. Mercury was created during the Great Depression as a mid-priced alternative to the more luxurious Lincoln models.
Mercury later developed the now-classic 60's and 70's designs of the Cougar brand. The Cougar GTE was the epitome of a real "muscle car." To this day, devotees roll up their T-shirt sleeves when cruising in those classics. But muscle cars and other "manly" vehicles just don't sell like they used to, as GM learned when it decided to close down Hummer this year.
The numbers only tell part of the story, but it is the part that Ford executives will be listening to come July. Apparently Mercury's U.S. sales took a slow motion dive from more than 500,000 units in 1978 to less than 100,000 units in 2009. That's a free-fall of more than 75%.
Nonetheless, dropping Mercury is not an obvious choice. We at Kemnitzer, Barron & Krieg share the view of consumer advocate and Ohio lemon lawyer Ron Burdge, who notes that there are less reliable vehicles left in the market. Yellow might be a popular color for Cougars, but there are worse lemons in all colors out there on the road.