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2007 Chicago Auto Show: Mercury Revives Sable Name

Montego Gets A New Engine, A New Look, and An Old Name
Having decided that they cannot afford to give up the equity of the Taurus and Sable names, with the 2008MY facelift, these names return (click here for our comments on Ford’s name changes, as the Five Hundred gets renamed Taurus and Freestyle the Taurus X). Ford presented these changes at the 2007 Chicago auto show complete with all the statistics backing up the fact the customers don’t know what Montego is, but they know Sable. To the tune of three times as many consumers recognizing the Sable brand as the Montego brand. At least the name, as this new Sable is nothing like the first twenty years of Sable. In summer 2007, the Sable returns to dealers, and Mercury will have to find another excuse if sales don’t pick up.


What the statistics don’t do is explain why a consumer coming into a Mercury dealer looking for a Sable would not be convinced to buy a Montego or Milan. If Montego sales have been disappointing to Ford, a name change is not the magic wand to fix the problem. Mercury stands a good chance of selling more Sables than Montegos more because of the product changes that come along for the 2008MY than the name game.

The biggest shortcoming of the Montego was its weak powertrain, which was more bland than its styling. In fact, the 2006 Montego won AutoPacific’s first Ideal Vehicle Award by virtue of its great package and ergonomics. With the 2008MY Sable, a 260HP 3.5L DOHC 24v V6 replaces the launch 3.0L V6, gets a six-speed automatic transmission, and delivers this extra power without a decrease in fuel economy. There is an exterior and interior update to go with the name and powertrain changes. Suspension setup doesn’t change, but was revised and retuned, and there is a new power steering system with an intelligent electric pump. All-wheel drive is still offered, but is a new system now that the CVT is gone.

The new front fascia and headlights takes cues from Mariner and Mountaineer, successfully dressing up the Sable. Taillights and rear fascia are also revised, and there’s more chrome to be found. Overall, the exterior changes give the Sable more sophistication than the Montego carried, and the updates to the Sable are the most successful and attractive of the three new models (Taurus and Taurus X also received similar updates). We also notice that Mercury the Sable name in more places and more prominently on this new version than they did Montego badges on that car; Sable is on the rear decklid and both sides of the car. The Montego wore its name only on the rear. That alone will make it easier for consumers to know what they are looking at.

Inside, changes include a revised sound package for much-improved NVH. The options list expands to include Ford’s new voice-activated hands-free in-car communications system, Sync, developed with Microsoft and a standard auxiliary input jack. The Sable also gets optional two-tone interior with contrast stitching, taking a page from the Milan and Fusion’s interior schemes.
The updates to this vehicle promise a more competitive vehicle, with a more interesting exterior look and a powertrain that competes in today’s market. At the end of the day, Sable’s success will be all about the product, just as Montego’s weak sales were all about the product. A good name won’t sell a bad product just as much as a bad name won’t slow sales of a great product.

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