As part of a major restructuring plan announced Friday, Ford Motor Company will ditch its Ford Escort, Mercury Cougar, Mercury Villager and Lincoln Continental models by the end of the year.

Ford is desperate to scale back losses and boost market share. Five North American plants will be closed, 35,000 jobs axed (20,000 in North America) and non-core assets sold, as the manufacturer seeks to reduce total capacity from 5.7 million units to 4.8m.

“We plan to rebuild product pipeline, improve quality, right-size capacity and reduce cost and emphasize bottom line return,” announced chief operating officer Nick Scheele. “This plan will deliver $9 billion in profit improvements by the middle of the decade.”

The restructuring hangs a large question mark over the future of the Mercury marque, which will consist of just three cars. Advertising for the brand is handled by Young & Rubicam in Irvine, California.

Despite the decision to drop the four models, Scheele emphasised there would still be twenty new lines introduced around the world each year for the next decade, with several scheduled in the US for 2004 and 2005.

Central to the revival in Ford’s fortunes will be its Premier Automotive Group, which consists of Aston Martin, Land Rover, Jaguar, Lincoln and Volvo. Scheele hopes these will ultimately generate over one-third of Ford’s worldwide profits.

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