The dirty little secret at Ford is that Mercury's already dead, it's just that nobody can actually say it. Ford's in a tough enough fight on the eastern front without having to deal with a rear-attack in the west from legions of Lincoln-Mercury dealers pissed off they'll be losing half their sales channel. We understand that of course, but it doesn't mean we haven't done our damnedest to try to suss out the reality from every executive we've been able to get in front of. Whether it was at the 2007 Detroit Auto Show with Ford CEO Alan Mulally's "Mercury blands" slip-of-the-tongue or Mark Fields being unable to explain to us what Mercury was beyond "a Ford...that's a little different." Even at the Detroit Auto Show this year, we asked where the Mercury product was. We've been asking Ford for over two years about the status of the automaker's close-to-the-sun brand. We even asked you whether Mercury should survive after the Detroit News reported we should hear a gameplan for Mercury by the fourth quarter of this year.

Now it appears even Jill Wagner can't even save the brand, as the folks at Edmunds Inside Line have decided it's time to call time-of-death earlier than Ford. They've gone ahead and declared Mercury to be dead as a doorknob by 2012 — because product still hasn't appeared. Sure, they've got a newly-redesigned Mercury Milan expected for either the 2009 or 2010 model year, but beyond that? Not so much. It'll be sad to see another American brand wither away and die from the AIDS-like disease of poor product planning choices, platform prostitution and a horrifyingly bad economy, but frankly, hardly anyone will notice these days. And if we're really going to be frank, we're thinking there may still be another brand or two moving in the direction of death's doorway to join them. [via Edmunds Inside Line]