Finally. Perhaps as a young-ish person, I never properly understood either the appeal or historical significance of the Mercury brand for Ford Motor Co. In my eyes, they were a homeless tweener brand that was stuck between Ford's increasingly high-end trim models and improved quality and Lincoln's lowest level of luxury offerings.
From the chart in the WSJ article, this is hardly some recent trend, not even induced by the last two recessions. This has been a long-term decline since the mid-80's with a sharp drop-off in sales starting in the late 90's. I don't understand the automotive business well enough to figure out why this decision took so long to make. Perhaps some bit of silliness called hope egged them on into believing that Mercury would become hip and popular with younger buyers. Or the dealerships and their byzantine relationship with the manufacturer. It was taking nearly 1800 dealerships to sell less than 100K cars a year. Even accounting for many of those dealerships selling other FoMoCo models, that's not enough sales volume for that many dealers.
Anyway, I like Ford, as much as I can like any large automaker. I have no doubt the decision to kill their Mercury brand was difficult, but it seems long overdue. For what it's worth, at least Mercury cars had reasonably normal names unlike the move towards increasingly silly letter combinations over at Lincoln.
Edit: I rephrased a horribly awkward sentence that I had previously thought was exceptionally well written. However, since I rarely proofread my work, it turns out it was quite poorly phrased.