Report: Ford to Shut Down Mercury Line

The Ford Mercury might be a thing of the past. Bloomberg is reporting that Ford Motor Co. is instituting a plan to shut down the Mercury product line. According to two anonymous sources with familiarity with the discussions, plans to shutter the entry-level luxury car line will be presented by Ford’s top executives to its Board of Directors in July.

The line has been in decline for several years as it has been particularly hard hit by the economic downturn. Sales of Mercury cars have plummeted 74 percent since 2000. Ford recently discontinued the Mercury Sable product line and will also stop production before next year on the Mercury Mountaineer SUV and Grand Marquis lines, leaving the company with just the Mercury Milan and Mercury Mariner SUV next year.

According to John Wolkonowicz, an auto analyst with IHS Global Insight, Mercury had become a “forgotten brand” within Ford, particularly after the company decided to stop giving Mercury exclusive components and technology. This eventually made them too similar to the lower-priced Ford models and ultimately ignored by car buyers.

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Ford and GM See Sales Increases in March

Despite what analysts are calling a “rough market” for cars, both GM and Ford showed significant improvements in U.S. sales last month, according to figures calculated by Automotive News. GM’s sales were up 21 percent over the previous month, while Ford saw sales climb by 40 percent.

However, the news wasn’t rosy for all domestic car makers. After posting its first monthly gain in four years in February, Chrysler saw sales dip eight percent last month. Some foreign car makers also saw disappointing numbers despite sales growth. For example, sales of new Hyundais were up 15 percent from the previous month, a number that was far below analysts’ previous estimates of 30 percent growth.

Many of the sales increases were attributed to car dealers being forced to match incentive offers introduced by Toyota in March as a counter measure to the wave of negative press about the company’s global vehicle recalls.

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Microsoft Gives Boost to Ford EV Car Users

Ford EV car users concerned about managing their energy consumption while recharging are going to get a boost from Microsoft. According to Automotive News, the software giant is working with Ford to develop an online application that will help EV car users manage their energy usage while charging their cars at home.

Ford and Microsoft made the announcement about Microsoft Hohm at the New York Auto Show yesterday. Ford is rolling out five EV car lines by 2013, starting with the introduction of the Transit Connect Electric later this year. Microsoft Hohm will be a free application for all Ford car owners that will help users decide when the best time is to power their cars.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said the hope is that Microsoft Hohm will encourage people to power their cars in the evening, when there is less stress on the power grid and energy prices are cheaper.

Ballmer said that the new service is “a significant step in the development of the infrastructure that will make electric vehicles successful.”

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Ford Releases Pricing for New Mustang

Automotive News reports that Ford has set the sticker price for its 2011 Ford Mustang, and the new V-6 powered car will be priced below its main rival the Chevrolet Camaro. According to Ford, its 3.7-liter V-6 version will start at $22,995, including shipping. The 3.6-liter V-6 2009 Camaro starts at $23,530. In addition, Ford’s 5.0-liter V-8 starts at $30,495 and the V-8 premium starts at $33,695.

Ford’s pricing for the new Mustangs has barely increased over the previous year despite new innovations that have meant an increase of more than 100 horsepower.

Chevrolet has not released pricing for the 2010 Camaro; embargoes for reviews of both cars end this week.

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Ford Hires News Sales Head From Within

Automotive News reports that longtime Ford Motor Co. executive Hal Feder has been tapped to lead sales for the Ford and Lincoln Mercury brands. According to a memo sent out to employees today, Feder will replace the retiring Randy Ortiz as general manager of Ford and Lincoln Mercury sales.

Feder has worked for Ford since 1983, and most recently was the CEO of Ford Motor Co. of Southern Africa, leading sales and manufacturing for models produced for the South African market including the Mazda Drifter, Ford Focus CC, Mazda3, Ford Ranger and Ford Bantam.

Feder began his career with Ford in 1983 as a zone manager for Ford division, focusing on Tennessee, Kentucky and Indiana. From 1987 to 1989, he held positions at the division including sales promotion specialist for the southeast region. He’s worked in the Lincoln division and the customer service division.

Ford Boss Praises Obama’s Handling of Auto Bailout

Ford Motor Co. Executive Chairman Bill Ford Jr. praised President Barack Obama‘s handling of the auto bailout, the Detroit News reported on Tuesday. Ford said that he had met briefly with Obama in the Oval Office, and had expressed his belief that the $62 billion bailout of GM and Chrysler was necessary and handled fairly.

“I complimented him on the way he’s handled the industry,” Ford said. “Preventing the collapse of the supply base was something that they did swiftly and forcefully, and it worked.”

Ford characterized the meeting as “casual” as he was primarily in town to meet with Commerce Secretary Gary Locke to discuss results of the National Summit convened by the Detroit Economic Club in Detroit in June.

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Ford Reports Near $1 Billion Net Income Last Quarter

Price reductions on models such as the Ford Taurus helped Ford to major Q3 sales.

Price reductions on models such as the Ford Taurus helped Ford to major Q3 sales.

Bloomberg reports today that Ford has posted a surprising third quarter 2009 net income of $997 million – the company’s first operating profit since early 2008 – on the back of higher sales spurred by competitive pricing. The move bolsters confidence in Ford, which was the only of the “Big Three” automakers not to receive government protection in 2009. In fact, Ford CEO Alan Mulally said that he anticipates Ford will be “solidly profitable” in 2011.

“Ford is a company that’s well into a turnaround,” said Bernie McGinn, president of McGinn Investment Management of Alexandria, Virginia, which owns about 320,000 Ford shares. “They did it by themselves and didn’t take government money. That gives people a good gut feeling and they’re being rewarded for that.”

With price cuts on models such as the Ford Taurus and Ford F-150, the company’s U.S. market share increased to 15.8 percent for the first nine months, compared with 14.8 percent from a year earlier, according to researcher Autodata Corp. of Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey.