ORLANDO, Florida - Ford Motor Co will launch a new small car for its Mercury brand in early 2011, based on the automaker's new global compact car platform, Ford President of the Americas Mark Fields said on Sunday.
The new Mercury is one of the 10 vehicles Ford is planning for its global small car architecture, that also underpins the upcoming 2012 Ford Focus, and would expand the lineup of the mid-level premium brand long devoid of new products.
The launch also underscores the No. 2 U.S. automaker's support for the brand despite uncertainty in some analysts' views over whether Ford will keep the brand in the long term.
Fields unveiled the plan during a meeting with U.S. dealers at the annual National Automobile Dealers Association convention in Orlando, Florida.
The trend toward more fuel-efficient vehicles is very important, the trend toward (small) cars in general is coming back. We are responding to that, Fields told reporters after the meeting with dealers.
U.S. sales for the Mercury brand fell 23 percent to 92,299 vehicles in 2009, while the overall market was down 21 percent. The company's flagship Ford brand sold 1.44 million units in the U.S. market in 2009, down 14 percent from a year earlier.
A Ford dealer who attended the meeting said the new Milan was likely to be showcased at the New York Auto Show in March.
Ford U.S. sales chief Ken Czubay said dealers can start to order the new Fiesta small car on Monday, months ahead of its launch this summer.
The Fiesta, which could get 40 miles per gallon on the highway and 30 mpg in city driving, brings Ford back to a subcompact segment it abandoned and represents the automaker's big bet that it can drive back to profitability with a new lineup of cars.
More than 6,000 consumers have made reservations for the Fiesta through Ford's online order system, Czubay said.
It seems to be a home run. And it gave us invaluable feedback from consumers, he said.
Ford also plans to launch a redesigned Focus small car later in 2010.
The only large U.S. automaker not to reorganize under a government-funded bankruptcy in 2009, Ford has forecast a profitable 2010 after posting its first full-year profit since 2005 last year.
(Reporting by Soyoung Kim; Editing by Gunna Dickson and Richard Chang)