Ford Ends Production of Mercury Mountaineer as Brand Begins Shutdown

It's official. Ford Motor (F) has begun winding down its long-lived Mercury brand, ending production of the Mountaineer sports-utility vehicle Friday. Ford announced in June its intention to shutter the 71-year-old nameplate as part of a plan to devote more resources to its Lincoln and Ford brands.

The Mountaineer, essentially a rebadged Ford Explorer, is only one of four products Mercury offers. The brand's other models -- Mariner, a small SUV; Grand Marquis, an old-style full-size sedan; and the Milan, a midsized sedan -- will continue to be produced until December for fleet customers, the Detroit Free Press reported.

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The Mountaineer was produced alongside the Explorer at Ford's Louisville Assembly Plant in Kentucky. A new, more fuel-efficient Explorer model, to be built at a refurbished plant in Chicago, will go on sale this winter.

Sales of the Mountaineer rose 60% in September, Ford said in releasing monthly sales figures Friday. Still, that increase boosted sales to only 474 units, a fraction of the more than 3,700 Explorers sold during the month. In total, Mercury brand vehicles accounted for 6,306 of the 160,873 cars and trucks the automaker sold last month, making it the smallest of Ford's three brands.

With the Mercury brand winding down by year's end, about 200 dealers who now sell only Lincoln and Mercury brand vehicles will have to find ways to sustain sales without Mercury models, which have accounted for as much as 60% of those dealerships' sales.

Lincoln Mercury dealers will be at Ford headquarters in Dearborn, Mich., on Monday and Tuesday to learn about Ford's strategy for Lincoln.