DEARBORN, Mich., May 10 (UPI) -- Ford Motor Co. may soon retire its Mercury brand to focus its efforts on Ford and Lincoln brands, U.S. auto industry analysts say.
Ford officials have denied such reports, but industry analyst Aaron Bragman of the economic forecasting firm Global Insight said the Mercury brand has declined in sales and may soon become expendable, the Los Angeles Times reported Saturday.
"Mercury has one more product cycle left in it, and then will almost certainly be retired as a brand," Bragman said.
Former auto executive Jerome York -- who now advises the investment company of billionaire Kirk Kerkorian -- said this week the struggling automaker would benefit from retiring the Mercury brand.
Kerkorian's company owns 4.7 percent of Ford and is eyeing an increased investment in the U.S. auto group.
The Times said U.S. sales of all Mercury models have dropped 23 percent this year -- the largest drop in sales in 2008 for any brand except Hummer and Chrysler.
Auto industry analyst Tom Libby said the drop was likely due to the model's look and cost.
"It's hard to sell a Mercury when it looks just like a Ford that's priced at $4,000 less," Libby said.