Skip to primary navigation Skip to main content

Autos roll. Mercury plummets. God drives away in a Fury.

   Business news from P.1 and Business Today:

- Booming sales outpace incentives, local car dealers say - Matt Glynn/The Buffalo News
   Area new-car dealers reported strong sales in May, riding the wave of strong gains by Ford Motor Co., General Motors Co. and Chrysler. ...
   Across the country, both Ford and General Motors saw double-digit sales increases over the same month last year, when GM was headed into bankruptcy protection, and Chrysler Group was already there. If the trend holds for other automakers, May would be the seventh straight month of year-over-year sales increases for the industry.

- Ford will end Mercury, expand Lincoln - Keith Naughton/Bloomberg/Buffalo News
   Ford Motor Co. made it official on Wednesday, announcing that it will discontinue its 71-year-old Mercury Mercury brand by the end of the year and expand its Lincoln lineup with a new small car. ...
   Three Mercury
dealers are in the Buffalo Niagara region: West Herr in Amherst, Towne in Orchard Park and Emerling in Springville. Each sells at least one other brand from the Ford family. ...
Mercury would join Pontiac, Saturn, Oldsmobile and Plymouth among the departed Detroit brands this century. Edsel Ford, son of founder Henry Ford, established Mercury during the Great Depression as a midpriced alternative to mainstream Ford and upscale Lincoln.
   The Pontiac, Saturn and Oldsmobile websites above are more like fresh gravesites, with links to other brands they hope you will want to buy instead. Plymouth, phased out in 2001, is not mentioned on the Chrysler site.
   But it is mourned here, on a cool site that argues that when DaimlerChrysler phased out Plymouth, it actually did a blasphemous thing.
   After all, Plymouth was the brand of automobile which God used to drive. It's in the Bible: "... then God drove Adam and Eve from the Garden of Paradise in a Fury."


- Mercury's end lifts Lincoln - Mark Phelan/Detroit Free Press
   Let's face it: If Ford hadn't announced it was closing Mercury, nobody might have noticed the brand's departure. It's been decades since Mercury was anything more than a way to spread Lincoln dealers' overhead over more cars.
   Lincoln hasn't set the world on fire either, but it lives to fight another day.
- Mercury created memorable rides - Scott Burgess/Detroit News
- With Mercury Departing, Should Lincoln Be Next? - Jonathan Welsh/Wall Street Journal
- Ford to close Mercury division  - Jerry Hirsch/Los Angeles Times
   Analysts saw Ford's decision as a smart but difficult move that could be for naught if it is unable to pull off a massive renewal of the Lincoln brand, which through the first five months of this year trailed GM's Cadillac and every other major German and Japanese luxury line in sales.
   "Lincoln needs to be more youthful, and it needs to be a luxury brand with sex appeal, and it doesn't have those characteristics right now," said Rebecca Lindland, an auto industry analyst at IHS Global Insight.
   Some dealers say closing Mercury will help Lincoln.
   "Previously, with Mercury paired with Lincoln, it was kind of like selling Cartier watches and Timex watches side by side. It was hard to get the luxury experience," said Brian Allan, general manager of Galpin Premier, a Lincoln Mercury dealer in Van Nuys.
   Freed of Mercury, Lincoln can now become a "true competitor to Lexus and other imports," he said.

-- George Pyle/The Buffalo News

Derby wins hat race

   A derby is a hat.
   A derby is a race.
   And the Western New York community of Derby Wednesday won the race to keep making hats. Or caps.
   But when I suggested the above headline might appear in The Buffalo News today, New Era Cap boss Christopher Koch didn't think it -- or anything else -- was the least bit funny. Either way his decision went, he said softly, it was going to hurt somebody.

- New Era to keep factory in Derby - George Pyle/The Buffalo News
   The decision to maintain the company’s factory in the Western New York community of Derby — along with its 330 jobs — was nothing personal, strictly business, said New Era Cap Co. CEO Christopher Koch.Newerahat
  The region has been home base to the iconic baseball brand
since its beginning. Its headquarters remain in Buffalo, and the company has been led by members of his family since Ehrhardt Koch borrowed $5,000 from an aunt to open a factory on Buffalo’s Genesee Street in 1920.
   But, Koch said Wednesday, the choice of whether to retain the Derby facility or close it in favor of another plant in
Demopolis, Ala., came down to a matter of dollars and cents.
   “I did not weigh in at all in any way with the people who were looking at the matter,” said Koch, a Derby-area resident. “I kept my mouth shut and let the numbers speak for themselves.”
   Those numbers include a tentative cost-saving deal with the
Communication Workers of America, which represents the plant’s work force, and a package of government assistance that includes $3 million from the state’s Empire State Development program.
    The rest of the story was basically an Oscar acceptance speech, with everybody thanking everyone else, but no music to play them off.

   Of course, in Alabama, the mood was different:
- New Era closes Demopolis plant; 351 jobs cut - Patrick Rupinski/Tuscaloosa News
   The economy in West Alabama took a major hit Wednesday when New Era Cap Co. announced plans to permanently close its Demopolis plant in the spring, putting 351 people out of work.
   The plant closing, however, will affect more than just New Era's workers and their families. It will affect businesses, hospitals, social services and local governments throughout the area.

- We mourn loss of New Era and move on - Jason Cannon/The Demopolis Times
   “We need to employ Nick Saban's 24 hour rule,” Demopolis Mayor Mike Grayson said Wednesday afternoon. “We’re going to take 24 hours to mourn this loss and we’re going to get up in the morning and work on Plan B. The textile industry seems to be one that’s going away – or going overseas – and it doesn’t look like they’re coming back,” he added. “That’s not sour grapes, it’s just a national trend. What we’ve got to do is find an industry that wants to be in the City of Demopolis and one that can be suited by that facility. We’re going to be aggressive. Make no mistake about that.”
- Demopolis Resolved to Pull Through Plant Closure - WVUA-TV, Tuscaloosa

-- George Pyle/The Buffalo News
I'm gonna try and find some humor in this. For some folks, it hurts too much not to laugh.

Credit where it's due

   Finally, some respect.
   A while ago, you surely remember, I was on about how the New York Times managed to write a big Page One story about chicken wings while almost not mentioning Buffalo at all. How typical.
   But Calvin Trillin, the wonderful food, travel and true crime writer for The New Yorker, gives credit where itTrillin is due in a great piece in the Nov. 23 issue. Of course, Trillin knows food, knows Buffalo food, and, like me, was born in Kansas City, a great place to learn about eating.
   The article is about poutine, a uniquely Canadian dish that consists of french fries, cheese curd and brown gravy. "If you ate it often," he quotes a Canadian friend, "it would kill you."
   In order to describe how a nation can fight over the purity of a regional dish gone viral, Trillin has to come up with an American example. His choice, what else but Buffalo wings? You have to be a New Yorker subscriber to read Funny Food: Is a national joke becoming a national dish? online. But here are the important bits:

   In recent years, poutine has rapidly widened its range -- although someone from Quebec who's tasting a poutine in Alberta is likely to appear disdainful, like a travelling salesman from Buffalo sniffing suspiciously at what a Southern California sports bar lists on its menu as Buffalo Chicken Wings. In addition to pointing out that the proper pronunciation is poo-TIN rather than the more commonly heard poo-TEEN, a Quebecois would respond to, say, the use of shredded cheese rather than Cheddar-cheese curds the way a strictly raised Buffalonian would respond to wings served with cucumbers and Thousand Island rather than celery and blue-cheese dressing...
   Eating a smoked-meat sandwich at Schwartz's was what I thought of as a tip of the hat to an old champ -- the equivalent of having one beef-on-weck sandwich in Buffalo before turning to some serious chicken-wing consumption.


- BusinessWeek magazine has decreed that Tonawanda is the Best Place to Raise Kids in New York. Runners-up were Cheektowaga and Irondequoit.
   The photo they use to illustrate the piece is the downtown Buffalo skyline. OK. Tonawanda may have good schools, but it doesn't have a skyline. That's better than the page naming Salina, where my younger son was born, as the best place for kids in Kansas, and illustrating it with photos of the landmarks of Wichita, 95 miles away.

- And the aforementioned New York Times updates the fact that there is nothing to update in the battle for the rights to turn the down-at-the-hooves racetrack at Aquaduct into a video gaming extravaganza.
   Buffalo's Delaware North Company is among the bidders. But, this time, the Times gets all the way through the story and never once types the word "Buffalo."
   How typical.

-- George Pyle/The Buffalo News