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Cars from Defunct Brands Could be the Deal of the Century

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author photo by Autotrader December 2010

Pontiac’s shuttered, Saturn’s gone, and Mercury’s on the way out. But a car from any one of these brands merits strong consideration for the savvy buyer; great deals can be had, and underneath the skin, these cars are often mechanically identical to other vehicles still sold.

Platform sharing is used by manufacturers to offer buyers a variety of trims, styles, and driving demeanors without literally going back to the drawing board for each model. When done well, it reduces cost per car and makes for unique, compelling vehicles (the Porsche Cayenne, VW Touareg, and Audi Q7 – all based on the same bones – come to mind).

Alas, years ago, domestic car companies got in the habit of changing little more than grilles and dashboards. The buying public wised up, the financial crisis killed car sales, and divisions like Pontiac, Oldsmobile, and Mercury suddenly cost more to operate than the meager profit they produced. Other brands weren’t managed well (Saturn), or had thirsty niche products that didn’t survive the shift towards greater fuel efficiency (Hummer).

Most recently, Mercury was axed. An AutoTrader.com search for 2010 and 2011 Mercury Milans resulted in 1,194 vehicles. The same search for the mechanically identical Ford Fusion yielded 28,514 cars. Why choose the Milan during Mercury’s last year of existence? A Ford/Mercury dealer explained that Ford Motor Company is eager to rid inventory of remaining Mercury vehicles and is pushing deals. Milans, Mariners, and Mountaineers, he said, are on average less expensive than their mechanically identical Ford siblings (Fusion, Escape, and Explorer, respectively). And positioned as the upmarket brand, Mercury models tend to come with more standard amenities than Fords.

Then come the rebates. All 2010 Milans are eligible for $2,000 cash back or zero percent financing for 60 months. Ford is offering $1,500 towards the first three payments on its Fusion, also at zero percent financing, but that promotion only applies to 2011 models and not to the Fusion Hybrid (whereas the Milan Hybrid does qualify). Ford promises to honor all Mercury warranties and service at its dealerships. So if you can snag a Mercury while they’re still around, you could land yourself a sweet deal.

You’d be harder-pressed to find a new Pontiac (an AutoTrader.com search turned up just 83 brand-new Pontiacs in all), Hummer (32 new), or Saturn (10 new), but lightly used or off-lease example could make a great buy. After all, a Saturn Outlook is simply a Chevy Traverse in different duds. The Pontiac G6 is essentially a Chevy Malibu with different styling and a tad less refinement. The Hummers…well, they are a breed alone, though all the mechanical bits and pieces are pure GM. With all three brands, GM service and warranties apply in full.

So if you’re an auto buff or a fan of one of these banished brands, a final example could be a must-have. The 2011 Mercury Grand Marquis (twin to the defunct Ford Crown Victoria) could well be the last chance to own what was once the backbone of the American auto industry: the full-size, solid axle, V-8-powered rear wheel drive sedan.

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
Cars from Defunct Brands Could be the Deal of the Century - Autotrader