One brand's wind-down is another brand's expansion. Read about both inside.

Ford is officially pulling the plug on the Mercury brand.  The marque will be shut tight by the end of the year, according to Ford.

The 71-year-old brand was created by Henry Ford's son Edsel as a separate luxury line, with 1978 its best year for sales.  A resurgence in 1993 led some analysts to think the brand would be around for quite some time, but a lack of innovation and marketing led to the brand's decline.

Mercury sales now make up less than 1% of all auto sales in the U.S., and shows no sign of improving.  The closure is not expected to significantly affect dealerships, as there are no dealers left that sell only Mercury models.  Still, Ford will offer a buyout to dealerships for giving up Mercury franchise rights.

Parts, maintenance, repair will continue to be provided by Ford and Lincoln service centers.  Warranties on new vehicles will still be honored.  Look for significant price cuts to also be offered on new vehicles, as Ford will want to get rid of their stock of Mercury units as quickly as possible.

Ford has not said if any workers will be laid off because of the decision, however they may need more employees to help with an expansion at Lincoln.  The company is looking to make Lincoln a stronger competitor to Cadillac, and will introduce "seven all-new or significantly refreshed vehicles in the next four years."

The first of these vehicles to see the light of day will be the 2011 Lincoln MKX crossover.  As part of the plan, the automaker will also roll out its first-ever compact car.

“We have made tremendous progress on profitably growing the Ford brand during the past few years," said Ford Americas president Mark Fields.  "Now, it is time to do the same for Lincoln.”

Aside from competing with Cadillac, Ford may also be covering its bases against another General Motors brand.  With the new Buick Regal GS coming to market, Buick is expanding its strategy to appeal to a younger market.  Lincoln will be looking to also appeal to a younger demographic.

Look for Lincoln to also debut an all-new V6 engine, more fuel-efficient transmissions, and new powertrains as part of the plan.  EcoBoost engines are also being made available across the brand's line-up.

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