Mercury is a defunct division of the U.S. automobile manufacturer Ford Motor Company. Marketed as an entry-level premium brand for nearly its entire existence, Mercury was created in 1938 by Edsel Ford to bridge the price gap between the Ford and Lincoln vehicle lines. In a similar context, Buick and Oldsmobile served the same role within General Motors (between Chevrolet and Cadillac) while Mercury competed against the namesake brand of Chrysler (above Plymouth and Dodge, but below Imperial).
|Defunct||January 4, 2011|
|Edsel Ford, founder|
|Parent||Ford Motor Company|
From 1945 to 2010, Mercury formed half of the Lincoln-Mercury division; under both brands, the combined division created a sales network distinct from Ford. Lincoln-Mercury briefly expanded under the Edsel (1958–1960) and Merkur (1985–1989) brands. To reduce development and production costs, Mercury vehicles shared manufacturing commonality with either Ford or Lincoln (or both), serving as counterparts for vehicles from both divisions.
In the summer of 2010, Ford Motor Company announced the discontinuation of the Mercury division as it consolidated its marketing and engineering efforts on the Ford and Lincoln brands. Production of Mercury vehicles ceased in the fourth quarter of 2010. At the time, Ford sold Mercury vehicles in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, and the Middle East. The final Mercury automobile, a 2011 Mercury Grand Marquis, rolled off the assembly line on January 4, 2011.
Although the final vehicle of the division was produced in 2011, Mercury remains an active and registered trademark owned by Ford Motor Company (to at least 2025).
During the mid-1930s, despite the continuing success of its new V8-powered product line, Ford Motor Company was again in danger of being left at a competitive disadvantage to both of its largest competitors. While General Motors and upstart Chrysler Corporation both offered a comprehensive line of brands (in terms of price), by 1935, Ford remained with its namesake brand and the cars of Lincoln Motor Company. Aside from the Cadillac V-16, the Packard Eight and Duesenberg Model J, the Lincoln Model K was one of the most expensive vehicles built and sold in the United States.
As a solution, in 1936, Ford launched its own version of the 1920s General Motors Companion Make Program. As its first effort to bridge the massive price gap between the standard V8 Ford and the V12 Lincoln Model K, the Lincoln-Zephyr was introduced in 1936 as a competitor for the similar LaSalle, Chrysler Airstream, and Packard One-Twenty. Within a single year, the new model proved successful, with over 15,000 Lincoln-Zephyrs sold.
Inside Ford Motor Company, there remained debate whether a medium-price car should be produced under the Ford brand or under a new marque entirely. Following the success of the Lincoln-Zephyr, the company would take both approaches. For 1938, the De Luxe Ford model line was introduced as a higher-price version of the standard Ford V8. To differentiate the two model lines, the De Luxe Ford was given its own trim, a different hood, and a model-specific grille.
To offer a medium-price car under its own marque, Edsel Ford began Mercury as a separate company within Ford in 1937. Though used on the Chevrolet Mercury for 1933, the Mercury name was selected from over 100 potential model and marque names. In place of a slight restyling, as seen on the De Luxe Ford, the Mercury was an all-new car, with the body design overseen by E.T. 'Bob' Gregorie.
For the 1939 model year, Mercury made its debut with a namesake vehicle line as a completely new design. Sized between Ford and Lincoln, Mercury adopted a 116-inch wheelbase (four inches longer than Ford, six inches shorter than the Lincoln-Zephyr) with a body six inches wider than Ford. To streamline production, Mercury did not use a division-specific engine, offering a 239 cubic-inch version of the Flathead V8 (producing 95 hp).
Over 65,800 1939 Mercurys were sold, at a starting price of $916 (approximately $16,090 in 2016 dollars). Following the popularity of Mercury, after 1940, De Luxe Ford was repackaged, becoming a Ford trim level.
For 1941, as part of its first redesign, the Mercury adopted the Mercury Eight nameplate used in sales literature. To consolidate development and production, the Mercury Eight shared much of its bodyshell with Ford, distinguished by its 4-inch longer wheelbase. To further separate the two model lines, the Eight was given a model-specific grille, exterior and interior trim, and taillamps. For the first time, the Eight was offered as a wood-bodied station wagon.
For the shortened 1942 model year, 24,704 Mercury vehicles were produced. Before production was suspended, several major changes were introduced. For the first time, the Flathead V8 was offered with 100 hp in standard form. As part of an interior redesign, the Eight received a dashboard configured similar to the Lincoln Zephyr. To compete with Fluid Drive (Chrysler) and Hydramatic (General Motors), the 1942 Mercury offered Liquamatic, the first semi-automatic transmission offered by Ford Motor Company. Shared with Lincoln, Liquamatic proved complex and unreliable, with many systems replaced by conventional manual transmissions.
Following the rise of Henry Ford II as Ford president, on October 22, 1945, Ford Motor Company merged Mercury and Lincoln Motor Company into a combined Lincoln-Mercury division. In an effort to fully establish a brand structure within Ford Motor Company, Lincoln-Mercury functioned as a combined division while marketing both namesake model lines. In line with Mercury, Lincoln withdrew the Zephyr nameplate, marketing itself under the division name (the Continental was discontinued after 1948).
On November 1, 1945, the first 1946 Mercury Eights rolled off the assembly line. In line with Lincolns, Fords, and virtually all American-manufactured vehicles, 1946 production was functionally unchanged from 1942. The grille underwent a minor redesign, reintroducing vertically-oriented trim; the unpopular Liquamatic transmission did not return as an option. Through 1947 and 1948, few major changes were made.
For 1949, Ford Motor Company launched its first all-new post-war designs for all three of its model lines. To gain exposure for both Lincoln-Mercury brands, the Lincoln was given the same bodyshell as the 1949 Mercury Eight, largely distinguished by headlight and grille designs; Mercury and Lincoln would feature separately-trimmed interiors. Mechanically, each brand offered its own version of the Ford Flathead V8.
For many years after its production, the 1949–1951 Mercury Eight (most commonly in two-door form) would develop a following as a street rod, making an appearance in several films.
The 1949 redesign of the Mercury model line proved successful, with the division increasing its sales six-fold over 1948, becoming the sixth-most popular brand in the United States. In contrast to medium-price brands from Chrysler and General Motors (or independents such as Nash, Hudson, or Packard), Mercury continued to offer the Eight as its sole model line.
For 1950, the Monterey name made its first appearance, denoting a special edition of two-door coupes (alongside the Lincoln Lido and Ford Crestliner). Intended to compete against the hardtop coupes from General Motors, the Monterey simulated the appearance of a convertible through the use of a canvas or vinyl roof (though with a pillared roofline). During the year, the one-millionth Mercury vehicle was produced. In 1951, Mercury regained an automatic transmission option (for the first time since the 1942 Liquamatic), with the "Merc-O-Matic" 3-speed automatic (a rebranding of Ford Cruise-O-Matic).
For 1952, Mercury redesigned its model line, with two nameplates replacing the Eight. The Monterey returned as a distinct model line, slotted above the base-trim Custom; both shared bodies with Lincoln. In 1953, the expansion of the model line proved successful; after emerging from a war-depressed market, Mercury nearly doubled in sales, ranking eighth. While Mercury would have subsequently higher yearly sales, at 5%, this is the largest market share ever held by the division. For 1954, Ford replaced the long-running Flathead V8 (dating from 1932) with an overhead-valve Y-block V8, with Ford and Mercury receiving their own versions of the engine. As a submodel of the standard Monterey hardtop, the Monterey Sun Valley was introduced, featuring a fixed-panel acrylic glass sunroof. While offering an open-air interior, the Sun Valley was difficult to market in warm-weather climates (as the glass panel warmed the interior to uncomfortable temperatures).
For 1955, Mercury underwent a redesign of its model line. While again sharing much of its bodyshell with Lincoln, the division adopted the three-model range of Ford. As its premium model range, the Montclair was introduced above the Monterey (including the Sun Valley glass-top hardtop, for its final year). The revision proved successful, as Mercury reached its then-highest sales. The divisional structure of Ford was revised; Lincoln-Mercury was split (largely to accommodate the formation of the Continental division) In 1956, Mercury renamed the Custom the Medalist (to avoid confusion with the Ford Custom).
For 1957, Mercury redesigned its model range, with a 122-inch wheelbase sized between Ford and Lincoln. In a move upmarket, the slow-selling Medalist was discontinued, with the Monterey becoming the standard Mercury line. Previewed by the 1956 XM-800 concept car, the Turnpike Cruiser (the pace car of the 1957 Indianapolis 500) was slotted above the Montclair, distinguished by its quad headlamps and retractable rear window. In line with Ford, Mercury station wagons became a distinct model line, with the Commuter, Voyager, and Colony Park; all Mercury station wagons were hardtops.
In 1958, to accommodate the introduction of Edsel, Ford revised its divisional structure, with Mercury, Edsel, and Lincoln forming a combined division (M-E-L). The Edsel Citation and Edsel Corsair shared their chassis (and roofline) with Mercury, with the entire division overlapping Mercury in price (a key reason behind its failure). The Park Lane was introduced as a flagship model line on a 125-inch wheelbase (with the Turnpike Cruiser becoming part of the Montclair line). Shared with Lincoln (and the Ford Thunderbird), Mercury introduced a 430 cubic-inch "Marauder" V8; optional on all Mercurys, a 400 hp "Super Marauder" version became the first mass-produced engine to be rated at 400 hp.
For 1959, Mercury underwent a revision of its body, expanding to a 126-inch wheelbase. Coinciding with the discontinuation of the Edsel Corsair and Citation, Mercury produced its own body and chassis (for the first time since 1940). The division pared several slow-selling model lines, including the Turnpike Cruiser and Voyager; the two-door Commuter was in its final year.
As with many medium-price brands, the Mercury brand was hit hard by the economy of the late 1950s. While remaining eighth in sales from 1957 to the end of the decade, Mercury saw a 60 percent drop in sales in 1958, outranked by Rambler in sales. While outselling the heavily-marketed Edsel by over a two-to-one margin; it would take nearly 1958 and 1959 combined to match the 1957 sales total.
1954 Mercury Monterey Sun Valley (Ford Crestline Skyliner)
In the American automotive industry, the economic recession of the late 1950s affected medium-priced brands the hardest. In tandem with the recession, Edsel completely overlapped Mercury in price; by the end of 1959, the division was quietly discontinued. While distinct from Mercury, the adoption of unibody construction by Lincoln was costing Ford millions of dollars. In response, several Ford executives (led by Ford President Robert McNamara), proposed ending the losses by streamlining Ford Motor Company down to its namesake division. After McNamara left Ford to become Secretary of Defense in the Kennedy administration, Lincoln-Mercury would remain, but extensive revisions would better secure their future. Lincoln saw its model range trimmed down solely to the Lincoln Continental, downsized from its predecessor. To establish model continuity, Lincoln shifted from a three-year to a nine-year model cycle (followed by Lincoln for the 1961 Continental and the later Lincoln Town Car). Following the closure of Edsel, Mercury ended the use of its own body, becoming a higher-content counterpart of Ford (with its own wheelbase).
For 1960, Mercury entered the compact car segment (a year before Buick, Oldsmobile, and Pontiac) with the introduction of the Mercury Comet. Originally developed for Edsel, the Comet was sold without Mercury divisional badging until 1962 (similar to the original Valiant from Plymouth). The Mercury counterpart of the Ford Falcon (stretched to a 114-inch wheelbase), the Comet was given four headlights instead of two; the standard engine was a 90-hp inline-6 (becoming the first Mercury ever sold without a V8 engine).
For 1961, Mercury introduced all-new full-size cars, shifting from a division-exclusive chassis to a 120-inch wheelbase version of the Ford Galaxie. The Montclair and Park Lane were withdrawn in favor of the Monterey, Commuter, and Colony Park. The Mercury Meteor was introduced as an entry-level full-size range; as with the Comet, the Meteor was originally developed as an Edsel before its closure.
For 1962, Mercury revised its model line, matching it closer to Ford. To eliminate overlap with the Monterey, the Meteor nameplate was adopted for an intermediate, giving Mercury a counterpart of the Ford Fairlane. For non-station wagons, Mercury introduced "S" sub-models to market sportier content; along with higher performance powertrains, the option packages included full-length consoles, floor shifters, and bucket seats with the S-22 (Comet), S-33 (Meteor), and S-55 (Monterey).
For 1963, two different rooflines were introduced on the Monterey as an option. Similar to the Turnpike Cruiser and 1958–1960 Continental, Mercury offered a "breezeway" reverse-slant rear window. In stark contrast to the breezeway roofline, Mercury offered the "Marauder" fastback roofline (shared with the Ford Galaxie 500XL); its aerodynamics helped Mercury gain ground in stock-car racing.
By the middle of the decade, the Mercury division had secured its future. No longer entangled with the failure of the Edsel brand, the brand competed closely against Buick, Oldsmobile, the middle of the Chrysler range, and the top of American Motors range. For 1964, the full-size range underwent a revision; the Montclair and Park Lane were reintroduced above the Monterey, with the Meteor and S-models withdrawn. For 1965, the full-size models underwent a redesign; while still sharing the underpinnings of the Ford Galaxie, many styling elements were adopted from Lincoln, with advertising marketing them as "built in the Lincoln tradition".
For 1966, the Comet shifted into the intermediate segment, effectively replacing the Meteor. For full-size Mercurys, multiple rooflines were gradually phased out, with the fastback Marauder roofline discontinued in 1966 and the Breezeway roofline discontinued in 1967. After a two-year hiatus, the S-55 returned for 1966.
For 1967, Mercury introduced its two most successful nameplates, the Cougar and Marquis. Introduced as a counterpart of the Ford Mustang, the Cougar was intended to bridge the gap between the Mustang and Ford Thunderbird; the Cougar would go on to become the counterpart of the Thunderbird for 20 years. The counterpart of the Ford LTD, the Marquis was developed as a competitor of the Chrysler New Yorker, the Oldsmobile Ninety Eight, and Buick Electra. In various forms, the Marquis nameplate would survive until the closure of Mercury in 2011.
For 1968, the Mercury model range underwent several revisions. The Mercury Montego replaced the Comet as the intermediate model range (based on the Ford Torino). Introduced in 1964 as a performance-oriented submodel of the Comet, the Mercury Cyclone became a stand-alone model range slotted above the Cougar; the aerodynamically-optimized Cyclone Spoiler II was homologated as the 1969 Mercury entry for NASCAR.
For 1969, the full-size Mercury line was given an all-new body and chassis. While again shared with Ford, the Mercury model line underwent a major revison, with the Marquis expanded to a full model range (alongside the Ford LTD) and the Colony Park no longer marketed as a separate series; the Park Lane and Montclair were discontinued. Serving as a replacement for the S-55, the Marauder became a stand-alone full-size model, competing against the Oldsmobile Toronado and Buick Riviera, powered with an available 429 cubic-inch V8. To differentiate the Marquis from the Ford LTD, Mercury introduced hidden headlights for the model line. While still based on the Ford Mustang, the Cougar was available as a pony car or a muscle car, with an "Eliminator" performance package with an available 428 Cobra Jet V8.
During the 1970s, the product line of the Mercury division was influenced by a number of factors that affected all American nameplates. While sporty cars would not disappear from the division, Mercury refocused itself further on building high-content vehicles.
1970 marked the entry of Mercury into the subcompact segment. In place of selling its own version of the Ford Pinto, the division commenced captive imports of the Capri (European Ford Capri) from Cologne, Germany. Slightly larger than the Pinto, the Capri was marketed as a compact sports car rather than an economy car, becoming the first Ford Motor Company car in North America sold with a V6 engine. While sold through Lincoln-Mercury, Capris sold in North America from 1970 to 1978 had no divisional identification.
For 1971, Mercury gradually distanced itself away from performance vehicles. The Marauder and Marquis convertible were discontinued, with the Brougham name making its return. Restyled along the Mustang, the Cougar was repackaged as a competitor of the A-body coupes (Chevrolet Monte Carlo, Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme, Pontiac Grand Prix) of General Motors. Slotted below the Montego, the Comet made its return as a counterpart of the Ford Maverick (sharing much of its chassis underpinnings with the 1960 Comet).
At the other end of the performance spectrum from the Capri, Lincoln-Mercury began imports of the De Tomaso Pantera in 1971. Assembled in Modena, Italy, the Pantera was a two-door, mid-engine coupe powered by a 330 hp Ford 351 cubic-inch V8.
For 1972, the intermediate Montego line (based on the Ford Gran Torino) was redesigned with a body-on-frame chassis, creeping into full-size dimensions. After years of losing market share to the Cougar, the Cyclone was quietly discontinued.
The 1973 model year brought major functional changes to the Mercury line, the fuel crisis notwithstanding; in various forms, all Mercury cars were given 5-mph bumpers. The Marquis and Monterey were given an exterior update, adopting a "pillared hardtop" roofline (frameless door glass supported by a thin B-pillar). As American manufacturers shifted away from convertibles, the final convertible produced by Ford Motor Company during the 1970s was a 1973 Mercury Cougar.
1974 marked several significant changes throughout the Mercury model range, transitioning towards higher-content model lines. The Cougar underwent a redesign, shifting from the Mustang chassis to the Torino/Montego chassis, becoming the counterpart of the Ford Elite; in what would later set the design precedent for the model line for over two decades, the Cougar was styled as a Mercury version of the Ford Thunderbird. The Montego saw a revision to its model range, as its fastback bodystyle was discontinued.
For 1975, the Mercury model range underwent a series of transitions. Following the discontinuation of the long-running Monterey, the Marquis became the sole full-size Mercury nameplate; to expand the model range, a new Grand Marquis was slotted between the Marquis Brougham and the Lincoln Continental. Intended as the successor for the Comet, the Monarch led to a completely new market segment: the luxury compact car. The model line was met with success, with examples used as personal cars among Ford executives (including Henry Ford II). Following the 1974 discontinuation of its engine, Lincoln-Mercury ended its sales of the DeTomaso Pantera.
1976 saw the expansion of the smallest end of the Mercury model line. Introduced in Canada in 1975, the Bobcat was the Mercury counterpart of the Ford Pinto, sharing its coupe, hatchback, and station wagon bodystyles. The Capri was restyled with a hatchback and was renamed the Capri II. The Capri II (devoid of any divisional branding) became the second most-imported car in the United States (behind the Volkswagen Beetle).
For 1977, Mercury made significant revisions to improve sales to its intermediate model range (its slowest-selling models). While technically a mid-cycle model update, the Montego was replaced by the Cougar, with the latter offering sedan and station wagon bodystyles for the first time. The Cougar base coupe, sedan, and wagon were counterparts of the Ford LTD II, with the Cougar XR-7 hardtop becoming a counterpart of the Ford Thunderbird. The revision was well-received, as Cougar sales nearly tripled. In contrast to the downsized model ranges introduced by General Motors, the 229-inch long Marquis/Grand Marquis was powered by a 460 cubic-inch V8 (the second-largest displacement engine used in an American automobile).
1978 commenced the modernization of the Mercury model range, marked by the introduction of the Zephyr compact, replacing the Comet. The counterpart of the Ford Fairmont, the Zephyr marked the introduction of the Fox platform, a rear-wheel drive chassis architecture that underpinned a number of compact and mid-size Ford and Lincoln-Mercury vehicles from the 1970s into the early 2000s. After ending importation of the Capri II in late 1977, leftover examples were sold through the 1978 model year. Of the 580,000 vehicles sold; nearly four out of every ten 1978 Mercurys were Cougars.
For 1979, Mercury continued its modernization; as the division shifted away from performance vehicles at the beginning of the decade, the fuel crises of 1973 and 1979 sparked the decline of the landyacht. Two years after General Motors downsized its full-size model lines, Mercury introduced a downsized Marquis; while nearly matching the Cougar sedan in exterior footprint, the 1979 Marquis gained interior space over its 1978 predecessor. The Capri made its return, shifting from German-produced captive import to counterpart of the Ford Mustang; for the first time, the Capri adopted Mercury divisional branding. Bolstered by the redesign of the Marquis and the popularity of Cougar XR7, the Mercury brand reached its all-time sales peak, with nearly 670,000 vehicles sold.
As Lincoln-Mercury entered the 1980s, Mercury continued the modernization of its model line, redesigning its entire lineup between 1978 and 1982. Since the early 1960s, the use of platform sharing had left Ford and Mercury model lines styled virtually the same, differing only by grilles, wheels, badging, and minor trim. Through the decade, designers sought to give Mercury its own brand identity while maximizing production resources. Initially associated with full-size sedans and personal luxury cars, Mercury also diversified its model range.
For 1980, Mercury ended the model overlap between the Marquis and Cougar, as the latter was downsized into the mid-size segment. In another change, the Cougar model range was pared down to the XR7 coupe; a longer-wheelbase version of the Zephyr, the Cougar XR7 was a direct counterpart of the Ford Thunderbird. Poorly received by critics and buyers, sales of the model line collapsed (to less than one-third of 1979 levels). Struggling to compete against newer designs, the aging Bobcat and Monarch were in their final years of production.
1981 saw Mercury revise its model line to combat falling sales. A standard trim of the Cougar replaced the Monarch; a counterpart of the Ford Granada, the Cougar was largely a Zephyr with a formal roofline and Marquis-influenced fascias. As in 1977, the expansion of the model line nearly doubled Cougar sales (though far below its previous rate). Replacing the Bobcat, the Mercury Lynx was introduced as the counterpart of the Ford Escort. The first front-wheel drive vehicle of the brand, the Lynx (as an option) offered the first diesel engine for a Mercury; three and five-door hatchbacks were offered along with a five-door station wagon. For the first time, Mercury used the GS and LS trim nomenclature; in various forms, it would be used through the 2011 model year.
For 1982, Mercury introduced its first two-seat vehicle; the Mercury LN7 was marketed as a counterpart of the Ford EXP. To distinguish the LN7, the rear hatchback was fitted with a compound-curve rear window. For the first time since 1977, the Cougar was offered as a station wagon (replacing the otherwise identical Zephyr wagon, as Mercury shifted the model line upward in price). While struggling against the Mustang GT in sales, the Capri RS also was given the 5.0L V8.
1983 saw a major model revision within Ford and Mercury, involving full-size and mid-size model lines. Within the context of Mercury, most revisions were centered around the Cougar model range. Reverting to its traditional role of a two-door coupe, the Cougar XR7 underwent a complete exterior redesign; adopting a far more aerodynamic body than its predecessor, the Cougar was styled with a notchback roofline (the Thunderbird, a fastback). Under a mid-cycle model revision (to improve its aerodynamics), the Cougar sedan and wagon took on the Marquis nameplate (Ford renaming the Granada the LTD). As the most popular full-size Mercury since 1979, the Grand Marquis became a distinct model line (alongside the Ford LTD Crown Victoria). The Zephyr was discontinued after 1983 and replaced by the front-wheel drive 1984 Topaz. Selling far under sales projections (less than 5,000 were sold for 1983), the two-seat LN7 was withdrawn in favor of its Ford counterpart. Bouyed by Cougar sales, Mercury was the fifth-highest selling brand in the United States (the highest it would ever finish).
For 1984, the introduction of the front-wheel drive Mercury Topaz further ended model overlap within Mercury. The counterpart of the Ford Tempo, the Topaz replaced the Zephyr while offering a sedan counterpart of the Lynx (in a similar context to the Volkswagen Jetta and Golf). Along with advancing the use of aerodynamic exterior design, the 1984 Topaz became the first Lincoln-Mercury vehicle to offer a driver-side airbag (as an option). The Topaz also marked the first appearance of the Mercury "stacked angle" brand emblem, used through 2011 model year. The introduction proved successful, with the entire division selling nearly 500,000 vehicles.
1985 saw few revisions to the Mercury model line, largely in preparation for 1986. For the first time since 1980, the Cougar received a complete redesign of its interior, including an (optional) electronic instrument panel. As a 1985½ model, the Lynx underwent a mid-cycle update, adopting flush headlamps and a black-painted grille (in line with the Topaz). Intending to repeat the success of the 1970s Capri, Lincoln-Mercury began sales of the Merkur (see below), a captive import from West Germany aimed at European entry-level luxury cars.
For 1986, Mercury made a substantial change to its mid-size line as the Mercury Sable was introduced to replace the Marquis. Along with a transition to front-wheel drive, the conservative design of the Marquis was to be replaced by one of the most aerodynamic sedans in the world (at the time). While sharing most of its body with the Taurus (including its doors, roof, hood, and front fenders), the two sedans were externally distinguished by differently-styled C-pillars, taillamps, and the introduction of a low-wattage "lightbar" grille, which would become adopted by several Mercury car lines in the late 1980s. To match the Sable, the Topaz underwent a minor exterior update, receiving composite headlamps and a lightbar grille. Lincoln-Mercury continued sales of the Marquis alongside its successor through the end of the model year (retiring the Brougham trim).
1987 saw Mercury revise its model lines in a move upmarket. The Cougar underwent an extensive mid-cycle revision (sharing only the doors with the 1986 body). To distinguish itself from the Ford Thunderbird Turbo Coupe, the Cougar XR7 adopted a 5.0L V8 engine. More popular than the Cougar in 1980, the Capri was discontinued for 1987 (after being outsold nearly 10 to one by the Mustang). For the last time, Mercury offered the Lynx and the Grand Marquis two-door sedan.
For 1988, Mercury underwent multiple product revisions and updates. For the first time since 1979, the Grand Marquis underwent an externally substantial update (to slightly improve its aerodynamics); the rarely-produced two-door sedan was withdrawn. The Topaz sedan was redesigned, adopting a more "notchback" rear roofline than the Tempo; a grille (initially) replaced the lightbar. Taking the role of the Lynx, the Mercury Tracer was the first Mercury car since 1960 with no US-market Ford equivalent. The first Mercury assembled outside of North America, the Tracer was derived from the Mazda-designed Ford Laser (derived from the Mazda 323); American production was sourced from Japan and Mexico while Canadian production was imported from Taiwan.
1989 saw the 50th anniversary of the Mercury division, producing various commemorative editions of the Cougar, Sable, and Grand Marquis. For the third time since 1980, the Cougar underwent a ground-up redesign, adopting a completely new chassis alongside the Thunderbird (keeping its notchback roofline). Growing significantly in wheelbase (to improve interior room and handling), the Cougar was benchmarked in design against European premium luxury coupes. For the first time, the Sable saw an exterior update (a revision to the lightbar to aid grille ventilation). Far under sales projections, Lincoln-Mercury ended sales of the Merkur brand (see below).
During the 1980s, Mercury had largely succeeded in modernizing its model line and gradually separating its brand identity between Ford and Lincoln. While Mercury was among the last brands to downsize and would have disastrous results downsizing its mid-size model lines (with the 1980-1982 Cougar), Mercury was among the first brands to integrate aerodynamic body design into its model lines and downsized its compact model lines (replacing the Zephyr with the Topaz). In contrast to other American automobile manufacturers, as the 1980s progressed, elements of Mercury design shifted further from divisional (Ford) counterparts. Originally intended for replacement, the Grand Marquis (the most profitable model line) saw little change in contrast to its smaller counterparts.
For the 1985 model year, Ford chose to revisit the success of the 1970s Mercury Capri, with participating Lincoln-Mercury dealers launching the Merkur brand. Drawing its name from the German word of Mercury (pronounced mare-coor), Merkur sold German-produced captive imports designed by Ford of Europe, competing against European executive cars sold in North America from Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Saab, and Volvo (along with the launch of Acura).
At its launch, Merkur introduced the Merkur XR4Ti sports coupe, a federalized version of the Ford Sierra XR4i (renamed in deference to General Motors). For the 1988 model year, the Merkur Scorpio was introduced, bringing the Ford Scorpio flagship sedan of Ford of Europe to North America.
Following the 1989 model year, Merkur was discontinued as a result of several factors. The combined model line fell below sales projections, partially due to an unstable exchange rate between the US dollar and the West German mark; at US$25,000 (approximately $50,530 in current dollars), the Scorpio rivaled the Town Car in price, yet bore a close resemblance to the Taurus and Sable. Merkur remains one of the shortest-lived brands in the modern American automotive industry.
As Ford ended the Merkur division in 1989, the Mercury division itself began a major transition during the 1990s. As distinguishing itself from counterpart Ford (and Lincoln) models was a key factor, renewing the model line was imperative. In 1989, the first completely new Cougar since 1980 was introduced. While again a personal-luxury coupe based upon the Ford Thunderbird, the all-new platform allowed for major improvements to interior room and handling.
In 1991, Mercury gained a model unique to the division as it revived the Capri name for a second time as an import from Ford of Australia. Envisioned as a competitor to the Mazda MX-5, the Capri was a four-seat convertible with a front-wheel drive layout. Although neither car was related to each other, both the Capri and the MX-5 used a number of Mazda 323 components. After a two-year hiatus, the Tracer made its return to the Mercury line. Now a clone of the Ford Escort, both cars were near-twins of the Mazda Protegé; unlike the Escort, only a 4-door sedan and station wagon were available. With only detail changes since 1979, the Colony Park station wagon was discontinued at the end of the model year; only 3,104 1991 models were produced as buyers had shifted towards minivans, full-size vans, and large SUVs to use as family vehicles.
For 1992, the best-selling (and oldest) models of the model lineup saw major updates. The Sable was given an exterior and interior facelift; while its aerodynamic shape remained familiar, only the doors and roof were carried over from the 1991 model. The Grand Marquis, nearly unchanged since 1979, was given an extensive redesign inside and out. While still sharing its basic chassis from before, no sheetmetal was carried over; an all-new overhead cam V8 engine was the first of its kind in an American full-size car. While still far more aerodynamic than its predecessor, the more conservative styling of the Grand Marquis helped win buyers over the more radical Chevrolet Caprice (and Ford's own Crown Victoria); sales doubled from 1991 to 1992 to become the division's best-selling model through much of the 1990s.
Mercury sales rebounded in 1993 to over 480,000, their highest level since the 1978 all-time high. In the mid-1990s the brand received some free advertising when country music star Alan Jackson scored a hit with a 1993 cover of K. C. Douglas' "Mercury Blues", a song which heaped praise on their vehicles. Ford later used a different version of the song in its truck advertising. It was also this year that television star Kate Jackson came on board as a regional spokeswoman for the Lincoln-Mercury sales division, promoting the Mercury models through the 1997 model year. In 1993, the division would make up for the loss of the slow-selling Colony Park station wagon by the introduction of the Villager. A nameplate originally seen on many Mercury station wagons during the 1960s and 1970s, the Villager was jointly developed with Nissan (whose version was called the Quest). A front-wheel drive minivan assembled in the United States, the Villager was chosen over a version of the Aerostar, which Ford marketed as part of its light-truck line. In terms of size, the Villager was sized in between both sizes of the Chrysler minivans and marketed as a competitor to the luxury Chrysler Town & Country.
The middle of the decade saw some controversial moves from the division. For 1995, the dated Topaz was replaced by the Mystique. While the Ford Mondeo "world car" it was based upon was considered a mid-size car outside of North America, in the United States and Canada, the Mystique/Ford Contour were criticized for being some of the least roomy cars compared to their competition. In 1996, the Sable was given a controversial redesign. While the sedan was largely differentiated from its Taurus counterpart, it was not well received by buyers; sales of the Sable fell by nearly one-third from 1996 to 2000. In a less radical redesign than the Sable, the sedan version of the Tracer was redesigned alongside the Escort for 1997; unlike the Sable, the Tracer only differed from the Escort in its grille design.
As the 1990s progressed, the division further explored the use of family vehicles. While it would follow both the Oldsmobile Bravada and the Acura SLX, the 1997 introduction of the Mercury Mountaineer would begin to popularize the mid-size luxury SUV segment. Based on the Ford Explorer, the Mountaineer differed from its Ford counterpart in the fitment of all-wheel drive in place of four-wheel drive and a V8 engine was standard (initially). The Mountaineer is also notable for introducing the silver "waterfall grille", which became a common styling theme on virtually all succeeding Mercurys. In 1999, the Villager underwent a redesign alongside the Nissan Quest; a driver's-side sliding door was added, as the lack of one had become a major sales obstacle following the 1996 redesign of the Chrysler minivans which included one.
By the end of the decade, the division began to slim its model lineup. After the 1997 model year, the Cougar was discontinued as the personal-luxury coupe market began to decline in demand. After 1999, the Tracer was discontinued; the Mystique was removed from production early in the 2000 model year.
By the beginning of the 2000s, the Mercury division began to struggle in efforts to modernize its brand image. While sales of the Grand Marquis (then the best-selling Mercury vehicle) were highly profitable, the mid-60s age of a Grand Marquis buyer was nearly two decades higher than what Lincoln-Mercury dealers sought to attract into showrooms. During the 2000s, in multiple efforts to attract younger buyers to the brand, Mercury made a number of product changes and replacements. While the Mercury Grand Marquis and Sable retained market share at the beginning of the decade, the division effectively withdrew from compact sedans, discontinuing the Tracer in 1999 (three years before the Ford Escort) and the Mystique late in the same year.
At the beginning of the 2000s, Mercury began to shift from an identity of luxury towards performance. Initially discontinued after 1997, the Mercury Cougar was reintroduced for 1999. Beginning life as the third-generation Ford Probe, the first-ever front-wheel drive Cougar was based on the Mystique; as it was designed as a Ford Probe, the Cougar exited the personal luxury coupe segment, becoming a compact sports coupe. While badged as a Ford Cougar in export markets, the eighth-generation Mercury Cougar was the first Mercury since the 1994 Capri with no Ford equivalent (in North America). After finding only moderate success with buyers, 2002 marked the final year of the Mercury Cougar nameplate. For 2003, over three decades of hiatus, the Mercury Marauder nameplate was reintroduced. A high-performance variant of the Grand Marquis (sharing its engine with the Ford Mustang Mach 1), the Marauder shared the monochromatic styling of the 1994–1996 Chevrolet Impala SS (with black being the most common color ordered). Due to lack of marketing, the Marauder was discontinued after 2004.
After ending production of the Villager in 2002, Mercury introduced the Mercury Monterey for 2004. Intended as a direct competitor for the Chrysler Town & Country, the Monterey was a Mercury counterpart of the Ford Freestar, becoming the first minivan shared between Ford and Mercury. However, by the early 2000s, the minivan segment in North America began to decline in sales; as neither Ford nor Mercury gained market share, Ford ended production of the Freestar/Monterey in 2007. In an effort to bring Lincoln-Mercury a compact SUV, in 2005, the Mercury Mariner was introduced below the Mountaineer, becoming the Mercury counterpart of the Ford Escape/Mazda Tribute.
For 2005, in line with Ford, Mercury began a major revision of its sedan lineup to replace the Sable with two different vehicles. The larger of the two, the Mercury Montego, was a full-size sedan (the first all-new design since 1979); while close in exterior footprint to the Sable, the interior packaging of the Montego was closer in size to the Grand Marquis. The smaller of the two, the Mercury Milan, was introduced for 2006; a mid-sized sedan, the Milan was sized closely to the first-generation 1986 Sable. The Montego was the Mercury equivalent of the Ford Five Hundred; the Milan was the counterpart of the Ford Fusion.
While the Ford shift towards "F" nameplates was met with controversy in the marketplace, the reaction to "M" nameplates by Mercury for its product range was much less extreme. Along with its previous use from the 1950s to the 1970s for the Mercury product line, the renaming marked the revival of several nameplates previously used by the brand (Marauder, Montego, Monterey). While the Milan was outsold by its Ford Fusion counterpart (by a significant margin), the product line met with success, overtaking the Grand Marquis as the best-selling Mercury sedan in 2008. In contrast to Ford (which had largely ended the marketing of the Crown Victoria), the model overlap of the Montego and Grand Marquis led to the newer product line struggling to gain model share against competitive sedans. After being outsold nearly five-to-one by the Grand Marquis, for the 2008 model year, the Montego nameplate was retired in favor of reviving the Mercury Sable (as the Ford Five Hundred was renamed the Ford Taurus) as part of a mid-cycle update.
In 2008, Ford introduced an advertising campaign starring actress Jill Wagner that focused exclusively on attracting female drivers to the Mercury brand in hopes of making it more relevant and profitable (this stood in stark contrast to "The Man's Car" ad slogan from the late 1960s) The campaign was a failure, narrowing the brand image and buyer appeal of the division even deeper, and sales continued to fall. Although the revival of the Mercury Sable nameplate was intended for its wider brand recognition from the Montego, the Sable became the slowest-selling Mercury, with sales falling by nearly half over its predecessor.
On June 2, 2010, Ford announced the closure of the Mercury line by the end of the year. In terms of overall sales in North America, the Mercury brand held a 1 percent share (compared to the 16 percent share of Ford). With under 95,000 vehicles per year sold for 2009, Mercury had sold fewer vehicles than either Plymouth or Oldsmobile did in their final years before discontinuation.
Following the 2009 discontinuation of the Sable, 2010 marked the final model year of the Mountaineer, as the two vehicles completed their model cycles. For a shortened 2011 model year, Mercury sold the Mariner, Milan, and Grand Marquis, with the final Mercury vehicle being a Grand Marquis. For 2010, 93,165 Mercury vehicles were sold, nearly 265,000 fewer than in 2000.
As Ford announced the closure of the Mercury brand, signage related to the brand began to disappear from Lincoln-Mercury dealers. To reflect the change completely, in December 2012, the Lincoln division was renamed the Lincoln Motor Company (its name before World War II).
|Total Mercury Division sales||359,143||311,787||263,200||202,257||193,534||195,949||180,848||168,422||120,248||92,299||93,195||Total sales (2000–2010)|
Mercury in CanadaEdit
During the middle of the 20th century, the small dealership network of Ford Motor Company in Canada necessitated some branding changes to attract buyers into showrooms. This was especially the case in smaller, rural communities in need of trucks, as these areas were served by either a Ford or a Lincoln-Mercury dealer, but rarely both. This mirrored GM's handling of the Pontiac brand in Canada, as smaller communities would have either a Pontiac dealership or a Chevrolet dealership.
From 1946 to 1957, Ford of Canada marketed the Monarch brand in their own showrooms to attract mid-price customers. The Monarch line used much of the body and trim of the Mercury line in a three-car lineup (Richelieu, Lucerne and Sceptre). The Monarch brand was dropped for 1958 and replaced by the Edsel brand; poor Canadian sales of Edsels led to the revival of Monarch for 1959. The introduction of the Ford Galaxie led to brand overlap, leading for Monarch to be discontinued for good in 1961.
In 1975, the Monarch nameplate would return as part of the Mercury lineup (in both the United States and Canada) as the clone of the Ford Granada.
In 1949, Mercury of Canada introduced the Meteor brand in an effort to expand into lower-price markets (most closely against Pontiac). As the Mercury of the time was largely a Lincoln body with a Ford powertrain, the Meteor offered a lower price by combining the Ford Custom body with Mercury grille and trim. During the 1950s, this arrangement continued, expanding into a multiple-model line (Niagara, Rideau, and Montcalm). For 1962 and 1963, the brand was dropped, as Mercury adopted the name for its new intermediate-size line. For 1964, the brand was revived, taking the place of the Mercury Monterey in Canada. Again a line of Mercury-trimmed Fords, Meteor was gradually phased into the Mercury lineup starting in 1968. After 1976, the Rideau and Montcalm were discontinued; replaced by a Meteor trim level at the base of the Canadian Mercury Marquis line. Marquis Meteors were dropped after the 1981 model year.
In an effort to increase the availability of its truck lineup, Ford offered rebadged trucks in its Mercury dealerships starting in 1946. While initially applied to the Ford F-Series light trucks (becoming the M-Series), Mercury offered many counterparts of the Ford truck line. Other products included medium-duty conventional trucks, MB-Series school bus chassis, and its own versions of the Econoline and the C-Series COE truck.
Early versions of the M-Series often came with a higher output (CM-1 designated) Mercury/Ford Flathead V8 engine over and above the unique Mercury-specific grille, badging and trim that adorned every Mercury M-Series truck.
After 1968, Ford discontinued production of Mercury trucks; the Mercury version of the C-Series cabover ended production in 1972. With the discontinuation of the M-Series and Mercury Econoline, Mercury would not again sell a light truck until the 1993 Villager minivan.
The first logo of the Mercury brand was its namesake, the Roman god Mercury. Towards the early years of the brand, Mercury used its Roman namesake in a silhouette profile (with signature bowl hat with wings, as shown in the image). This logo was briefly revived for 2003–2004, used in the alloy wheel centers of the Mercury Marauder.
In the mid-1950s, Mercury the logo became a simple "M" with horizontal bars extending outward from the bottom of its vertical elements in each direction. This was described in advertising as "The Big M", and it was well known as the prime sponsor of The Ed Sullivan Show in the late 1950s. After 1959, the "Big M" disappeared, in favor of a crest emblem.
In various forms, Mercury would use a crest emblem on its vehicles through the end of the 1980s. While upper-trim models (such as the Grand Monarch Ghia or Marquis) would feature a crest on the hood or grille emblem, lower-trim models (such as the Monterey or Montego) featured a crest in places such as the wheels. For a time, the Marquis (later Grand Marquis) used a modified version of the Lincoln star emblem.
Following the introduction of the Mercury Cougar, the branding of Mercury vehicles changed, with the Cougar adopting a "prowling cat" logo, similar to the Ford Mustang pony emblem. During the 1970s, the Cougar became the most popular Mercury vehicle, with Mercury launching a "Sign of the Cat" advertising campaign. With the introduction of the 1977 Mercury Cougar, the "prowling cat" logo was changed to a "cat head" logo which was later adapted by the Mercury Lynx, Mercury LN7 and the Mercury Capri.
In 1984, Mercury introduced what would become its final brand emblem (pictured in article information box). Centered in the grille, the silver Mercury emblem is a set of three stacked obtuse angles (also in silver). Introduced with the Mercury Topaz, the emblem was adopted by the Lynx and Sable, with the Grand Marquis/Colony Park adopting it in 1988 (on hood ornaments and wheels). In 1999, the emblem saw a minor revision, with the word "Mercury" added to the top half of the emblem.
For 2005, Mercury became the final U.S. brand to design a new hood ornament, as an option for the Grand Marquis; the hood ornament option lasted for a single year.
The Mercury styling of the brand is most commonly associated with a waterfall-style grille. First making an appearance in the 1946 Mercury Eight, the design was revived in the 1961–1964 Monterey/Colony Park. The design would reappear in the debut of the Mercury Cougar, as designers sought to differentiate the model from the Ford Mustang. During the 1970s, the vertical waterfall grille design was adapted by nearly all Mercury vehicles (with the exception of the Capri and Comet).
In 1986, as part of the introduction of the Mercury Sable and a revision of the Mercury Topaz, the division introduced a "lightbar" front grille. Using low-power light-bulbs, the grille between the headlights was illuminated. By 1992, the feature was adapted by all Mercury vehicles (with the exception of the Cougar and Grand Marquis).
In 1997, as part of the introduction of the Mercury Mountaineer SUV, Mercury reintroduced the chrome vertical "waterfall" grille. In place of the radiator-style grille of Lincoln, several grille shapes were initially used, before the division adapted a rectangular grille opening in the mid-2000s.
In 1957, Mercury introduced the Mercury Turnpike Cruiser, featuring a roofline with a retractable rear window. From 1958 to 1960, the feature made its return on the Continental Mark-series line, with a reverse-slant rear window (on both hardtops and convertibles). For 1963, Mercury reintroduced the feature as an option for the Monterey; to streamline production, elements of the window design were shared with Ford station wagons. From 1963 to 1966, the optional reverse-slant roofline with retracting rear window was unique to Mercury, featured by no other American brand.
Following the replacement of the Mercury Eight by the Mercury Monterey in 1952, the division would begin to adapt a nomenclature for its model lines. At various times, the later Montclair, Medalist, Meteor, Montego, (Grand) Marquis, Monarch, Mystique, Mountaineer, Milan, and Mariner all used nameplates starting with "M". Beginning with the debut of the Mercury Cougar, the Mercury Bobcat and Mercury Lynx also used the name of big cats. In line with the Ford use of the Squire name for woodgrained station wagons, Mercury used the Villager nameplate. A name initially used by Edsel, Villager-trim wagons were available in all model lines with the exception of the Colony Park. After becoming dormant in the early 1980s, the Villager name returned for 1993 as the Mercury Villager minivan.
Over time, the Mercury division had used various trim level nameplates on its models. Some of these included GS, LS, Premier, XR (e.g., XR3 and XR7) and Ultimate.
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