|Defunct||January 4, 2011|
|Headquarters||Dearborn, Michigan, U.S.|
|Edsel Ford, founder|
|Parent||Ford Motor Company|
Mercury is a defunct division of the American 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. Forming half of the Lincoln-Mercury Division, the brand was intended to bridge the price gap between the Ford and Lincoln vehicle lines. In a similar context, Buick and Oldsmobile played a the same role within General Motors while the Chrysler Division did so within Chrysler Corporation (following the end of DeSoto and the creation of Imperial).
Although the initial Mercury Eight was a distinct design, for much of the existence of the division, Ford would rely on common underpinnings (from Ford or Lincoln, or both) to save on development costs. To various extents, nearly all Mercury vehicles would be rebadged. During the development of the Edsel, this practice ran in reverse, as the vehicles were derived from Mercury chassis underpinnings.
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 in danger of being left at a competitive disadvantage to both of its largest competitors. While General Motors and upstart Chrysler Corporation both had a comprehensive line of brands (in terms of price), by 1935, Ford sold only its namesake brand and the cars of Lincoln Motor Company. Aside from the Cadillac V-16 and Duesenberg Model J, the Lincoln Model K was one of the most expensive vehicles in the United States.
As a solution, from 1936 to 1939, Ford began its own version of the Companion Make Program introduced by General Motors in the previous decade. 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 LaSalle, Chrysler Airstream, and the Packard One-Twenty. Inside Ford, there was debate whether a medium-priced car should be a Ford model or a new marque entirely. Eventually, both approaches would be taken by the company For 1938, Ford introduced the De Luxe Ford model line; it was largely differentiated from the standard V8 Ford by upscale trim and a distinct hood and grille.
Started as a distinct company in 1937 by Edsel Ford, the Mercury name was selected from over 100 potential model and marque names. The Chevrolet Mercury was produced in 1933, becoming the Chevrolet Standard from 1934-1936. The body designs of the new car (referred to as the "Mercury Eight") were completed by E.T. 'Bob' Gregorie.
For the 1939 model year, the Mercury made its debut with a namesake vehicle line. An all-new car, sharing no body panels with any Ford or Lincoln, the Mercury was six inches wider than the 1939 Ford with a 116-inch wheelbase (four inches longer). To minimize production costs, a 239 cubic-inch version of the Ford Flathead V8 engine was used in place of developing an engine specifically for the division. Over 65,800 cars were sold for 1939, at a starting price of $916 (approximately $15,771 in current dollars).
For the 1941 model year, the Mercury officially adopted the Mercury Eight nameplate used in sales literature. To lower production costs of the popular vehicle, the Mercury Eight shared much of its bodyshell with the Ford V8, but it sat on a four-inch longer wheelbase. During the war-shortened 1942 model year, the Mercury Eight introduced the first semi-automatic transmission ("Liquimatic") by Ford Motor Company.
Following World War II, Ford Motor Company dropped the De Luxe Ford sub-brand and Lincoln-Zephyr was absorbed into Lincoln. In 1945, Lincoln and Mercury were combined into a single Lincoln-Mercury division; while functioning as one division, the two brands kept their separate model lines.
In 1946, the Mercury Eight was reintroduced for retail sale. Although wearing the same bodyshell from four years before, Mercury designers freshened the car somewhat with a new grille much different than the 1946 Ford.
For the introduction of its first post-war model line, Ford made a significant change to the Mercury line that would influence it for the next decade. To position it closer to the Lincoln brand (to gain exposure for both nameplates), the 1949 Mercury Eight would share its bodyshell with the 1949 Lincoln (with the headlights and grille distinguishing the two vehicles); inside, the two lines would feature separate interior designs. As before, the Mercury would still be powered by a higher-output 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.
In contrast to the medium-price brands of Chrysler and General Motors, whose brands sold a range of nameplates, the Mercury division of Ford consisted solely of the Mercury Eight in 1950. To make itself more competitive, as the Mercury Eight was redesigned for 1952, Mercury reintroduced the car as two vehicles: the Mercury Custom and the higher-priced Mercury Monterey. Still sharing most its bodyshell with Lincoln, the Monterey/Custom used a higher-output Ford V8 engine. For 1954, the long-running Flathead V8 (from 1932) was replaced by an overhead-valve Y-Block V8.
During the mid-1950s, the use of a common bodyshell between Lincoln and Mercury divisions continued. Above the Monterey, the Mercury Montclair was introduced in 1955 (aside the Ford Fairlane). To avoid confusion with the Ford Custom, the base-trim Mercury Custom was renamed the Mercury Medalist for 1956.
During the late 1950s, the launch of the Edsel brand would significantly affect both the Lincoln and Mercury divisions. For 1957, the entire Mercury product line was redesigned; for the first time since 1948, Mercury vehicles no longer shared a common body with Lincoln. While the Medalist was discontinued, Mercury gained a flagship in the Mercury Turnpike Cruiser (the pace car of the 1957 Indianapolis 500). In line with Ford, Mercury introduced station wagons as a stand-alone model line for 1957: Commuter, Voyager, and woodgrained Colony Park. While Lincolns would shift to unibody construction for 1958, the 1957 Mercury line shared the chassis and underpinnings of the premium models of the then-upcoming Edsel range. In a marketing decision that would prove fatal to the future of the Edsel brand, the pricing of the Edsel division overlapped the Mercury division completely. For 1958, the role of the Turnpike Cruiser gradually was overtaken by the Mercury Park Lane, replacing it entirely for 1959.
As the largest vehicles in the new Mercury lineup had a curb weight approaching 5000 pounds, Ford introduced its first big-block V8. A retuned version of an engine shared with Lincoln, the 430 cubic-inch Super Marauder V8 was the first production engine sold with an advertised 400 hp output. Following the discontinuation of the premium Edsel Corsair and Citation, for 1959, Mercury produced a body and chassis unique to the division (sharing its V8 engine with Lincoln). As with their unibody Lincoln counterparts, the 1959-1960 Mercurys are the longest-wheelbase and heaviest vehicles produced with the exception of the 1973-1978 model lines.
The economic recession of the late 1950s hit all mid-priced car lines of American manufacturers. Coupled with the recession, the heavily marketed Edsel division overlapped Mercury completely in price; the adoption of unibody construction by Lincoln proved expensive to produce. Several Ford executives, led by Ford President Robert McNamara proposed ending the losses by streamlining Ford Motor Company down to its namesake division. By the end of 1959, the Edsel division was discontinued.
After McNamara joined the Kennedy administration to become Secretary of Defense, Lincoln-Mercury gained a reprieve, with major changes made to the model lines. The Continental became the sole model for Lincoln, much smaller than the its predecessor. For Mercury, the division expanded into several model segments while returning to its roots based on the full-size Ford for 1961.
For 1960 (a year before Buick, Oldsmobile, and Pontiac), Mercury introduced its first compact car, the Mercury Comet. A Ford Falcon with its wheelbase stretched to 114 inches, the Comet was sold with a 90-hp inline-six (becoming the first Mercury ever sold without a V8 engine). Originally developed to become the entry-level vehicle of the Edsel line, the Comet was sold without divisional badging until 1962 (similar to the original Valiant from Plymouth).
When the full-size Mercury sedan line switched from the Mercury/Edsel platform to a Ford platform for 1961, the sedan line was trimmed to the Monterey. A second full-size car was added, the Mercury Meteor, priced between the Comet and Monterey. As with the Comet, the Meteor was stillborn Edsel model that was put in production as a Mercury; effectively, the 1961 Meteor was the last Edsel.
For 1962, Mercury re-organized its model line to be closer to that of Ford. As Ford introduced the Ford Fairlane, Mercury shifted the Meteor into the intermediate segment as it was reintroduced as the counterpart of the Fairlane. The division also started remarketing an image of high performance features in all of its models, with "S" sub-models of all three Mercury vehicles. The S-22 (Comet), S-33 (Meteor), and S-55 (Monterey) all featured high-performance powertrains along with full-length consoles and bucket seats.
For buyers seeking to distinguish their Monterey from others, in 1963, Mercury offered two different rooflines as an option to the standard sedan. The "breezeway" reverse-slant rear window was similar to the Turnpike Cruiser and 1958–1960 Lincolns. Somewhat more sporting was the fastback "Marauder" hardtop roofline; while it was also a design shared with Ford, its aerodynamics helped Mercury gain ground in stock-car racing.
By the middle of the decade, the division had secured its future. No longer entangled with the failure of the Edsel brand, Mercury competed closely against Buick, Oldsmobile, the middle of the Chrysler range, and the top of American Motors range. While the 1965 full-size Mercury range still were essentially long-wheelbase variants of the Ford Galaxie, the division underwent many steps to better differentiate a Mercury from a Ford. Adopting the straight-lined styling similar to Lincoln, the cars were marketed as "built in the Lincoln tradition". To distance itself from the Ford Falcon, the Comet took the place of the Fairlane-based Meteor in 1966, growing into the intermediate segment.
For 1967, Mercury introduced two of its most successful nameplates. Intended to bridge the gap in price, performance, and luxury between the Ford Mustang and the Ford Thunderbird, the Mercury Cougar was a slightly restyled version of the Mustang with a greater emphasis on comfort and equipment. The Cougar would remain in production for 34 years, the second-longest production run of any Mercury. Following the positive reception of the Ford LTD, Mercury introduced the Mercury Marquis as a two-door hardtop version of the Park Lane Brougham. Competing against the Chrysler New Yorker, the Oldsmobile Ninety Eight, and Buick Electra, the Marquis nameplate (in various forms) would survive until the final Mercury vehicle was produced in 2011.
For 1968, the intermediate line was expanded, as the Mercury Montego was introduced, based on the Ford Torino. Largely the replacement for the Comet, it was marketed as a higher-trim vehicle, a marketing campaign that would be used several times in the next decade.
Along with producing cars competing for comfort, by the end of the decade, Mercury sought to preserve its high-performance image as well. For 1969, the Marauder became a stand-alone model replacing the S-55. While heavily based on the two-door Marquis, it wore its own bodywork from the windshield back. A personal-luxury coupe sized above the Ford Thunderbird, the Marauder was aimed at the Oldsmobile Toronado and Buick Riviera.
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.
For the 1969 model year, the full-size Mercury line was given a redesign on an all-new chassis. Additionally, the Mercury line was consolidated, as the expanded Marquis line took the place of the Park Lane and Montclair lines (the Marauder coupe and Colony Park wagon nameplates were based on the Marquis), leaving the Monterey as the only other full-size nameplate. Differentiated from their Ford LTD counterparts primarily by their longer wheelbase (except for station wagons), Marquis-based models were also distinguished by hidden headlights.
On the other end of the size spectrum, Mercury entered the subcompact segment in 1970. In place of selling its own version of the Ford Pinto, the division turned to Ford of Europe, selling the Mercury Capri (European Ford Capri) as a captive import from Cologne, Germany. Slightly larger than the Ford 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. North American Capris did not have Lincoln or Mercury marque identification although the Mercury division handled Capri sales.
For 1971, the Marauder variant of the Marquis was discontinued and the Cougar was redesigned. To distance itself from the Mustang it was based on, the Cougar was now marketed against the A-body coupes (Chevrolet Monte Carlo, Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme, Pontiac Grand Prix) from General Motors. The Comet made its return; now a compact car based on the Ford Maverick, it shared much of its chassis underpinnings with the original Comet from 1960.
In 1972, the intermediate Montego line (based on the Ford Gran Torino) was redesigned with a body-on-frame chassis; as part of the redesign, its dimensions grew, creeping into full-size territory.
In addition to the fuel crisis, 1973 saw major change to the Mercury line. In various forms, all Mercury cars were given 5-mph bumpers. The full-size line was given a major restyling; while Ford (and later Lincoln) 2-doors would be given B-pillars, all two-door Mercurys would remain true hardtops.
In the middle of the decade, the division made several changes that moved the division further into the "near-luxury" segment, a well-timed decision due to the collapse of the performance-car segment.
For 1974, the Cougar was split from the Mustang, becoming one of the last cars to be enlarged significantly. Most of the growth was due to its shift to the Montego chassis, the Cougar now became a twin to the Ford Elite styled as a smaller version of the Ford Thunderbird.
1975 marked several changes across the Mercury line. The long-running Monterey was discontinued, with the Marquis becoming the sole model; a new Grand Marquis was slotted between the Marquis and Lincoln Continental. Originally intended as the replacement for the Comet, the Monarch (essentially a rebodied version of the Comet), led to a completely new market segment: the luxury compact car. The Monarch was met with success; high-trim versions were popular choices as personal cars among Ford executives, including Henry Ford II. After holding off on doing so for four years, Mercury dealers began selling the Ford Pinto as the Bobcat. While the Bobcat met with little success, the Capri became the second most popular imported car in the United States, only behind the Volkswagen Beetle; it was redesigned with a hatchback and rebranded Capri II for 1976.
For 1977, as it was one of its slowest-selling product lines, the Montego line (in its entirety) was replaced by the Cougar, with minor cosmetic updates. Previously a personal luxury coupe, the Cougar was now available in sedan and station wagon bodystyles (the latter for 1977 only). The move proved successful, as Cougar sales nearly tripled.
In 1978, Mercury sales peaked at an all-time high of 580,000; nearly four out of ten 1978 Mercurys were Cougars. In addition, a transition began in the model lineup. Originally scheduled to be replaced by the Monarch in 1975, the Comet was replaced by the Zephyr (based on the Ford Fairmont). Derived from the all-new Fox platform, the rear-wheel drive chassis would serve as the basis for a number of compact and mid-size Ford, and Lincoln-Mercury cars from the late 1970s into the early 2000s.
For 1979, the first variant of the Zephyr would enter production as the Capri made its return. A clone of the all-new Ford Mustang, it would be sold through the 1986 model year.
At the end of the 1970s, as with many other American luxury-segment nameplates, the future of the Mercury division was threatened by the fuel crises of 1973 and 1979. As with the muscle car, the era of the landyacht was in its own decline.
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At the beginning of the 1980s, both in the interest of fuel economy and to modernize its model line, Mercury would redesign its entire model line between 1979 and 1982. Although downsized two years after its General Motors competitors, the 1979 Marquis/Colony Park would see significant marketplace success. Externally smaller than the Cougar, the new full-size Mercury line offered increased interior space over its predecessor along with extensive fuel economy gains; rear-wheel drive and a V8 engine remained standard. The Marquis externally differed from the LTD with its front end styling and horizontal tail lamp arrangement.
For the 1980 model year, the Cougar XR7 was downsized onto the Fox platform as a coupe only and remained a counterpart to the Ford Thunderbird. For 1981, Cougar nameplates were also applied to premium variants of the Zephyr to replace the discontinued Monarch. This round of downsizing for all Cougar models was disastrous due to controversial styling and lack of differentiation with other Fox-platform nameplates. Sales of the previously best-selling Mercury would collapse to one-third of 1979 levels.
The Bobcat was quietly replaced for 1981 by the Lynx, a clone of the Ford Escort. The first front-wheel drive Mercury, the Lynx, also offered the first diesel engine in a Mercury (as an option). The Ford EXP was sold from 1982 to 1983 as the Mercury LN7, the only two-seat vehicle sold by the division.
For 1983, a major model shift took place within all three Ford divisions as part of a model update and consolidation. For Mercury, to combat falling sales, the Cougar was given an all-new aerodynamic body; more significantly, it reverted to its role of a two-door coupe (a clone of the Thunderbird). The Cougar four-door and wagon were restyled and re-branded as the Marquis. For 1980, the full-size Mercury model line was now the Grand Marquis, a slightly upscale version of the Ford LTD Crown Victoria that was introduced the same year. In 1984, front-wheel drive made its appearance in compact-size Mercurys as the Topaz replaced the Zephyr; alongside its Ford Tempo clone, the Topaz was the first Mercury to offer a driver's-side airbag. While first introduced in the 1983 Cougar, the Topaz further advanced the aerodynamic, streamlined body soon to become commonplace throughout Ford Motor Company.
In late 1985, Mercury introduced the Sable alongside the Ford Taurus for 1986. Replacing the Marquis as the division's mid-size sedan and wagon, the design of the Sable sedan led it to be one of the most aerodynamic cars in the world at the time. Originally intended to be replaced by the Sable, stability in gas prices and demand for full-size car sales led to the continuation of the Grand Marquis and Colony Park. With the introduction of the Sable, Mercury began to introduce a styling feature that spread across many of its models for the next decade. The signature feature would be the (non-functional) lightbar grille; on all models, serif or script lettering would be replaced by chrome block lettering not seen on Fords.
For 1988, the Lynx was replaced by the Tracer, a version of the Ford Laser designed by Mazda, with US models being imported from Mexico and Japan, and Canadian models being imported from Taiwan. Available as three- and five-door hatchbacks and a five-door station wagon, the Tracer was the first Mercury since the 1978 Capri II with no US-market Ford equivalent.
Beginning in 1985, Ford experimented with importing two European Fords under the Merkur (the German word for Mercury, pronounced mare-coor) nameplate. The Merkur lineup consisted of the XR4Ti (a federalized version of the Ford Sierra) and the Scorpio (a rebadged version of Ford's European flagship sedan). Merkurs were sold at participating Lincoln-Mercury dealerships throughout the United States and Canada. This approach was meant to revisit the success Ford had importing the European Ford Capri to North America during the 1970s.
After 1989, the brand was discontinued due to a combination of low sales and impending passive restraint regulations. Another key factor behind the demise of Merkur was an unfavorable exchange rate between the United States and West Germany; at US$25,000 (approximately $48,302 in current dollars), the Scorpio had a much higher base price than a Grand Marquis yet bore a strong resemblance to the Sable.
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 Miata, 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. 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 end of the 1990s, the Grand Marquis had remained a sales success, becoming the top-selling Mercury product line. Although highly profitable, it posed a problem for Mercury dealers, as the mid-60s average age of a Grand Marquis buyer was far higher than what Lincoln-Mercury dealers were trying to attract into showrooms. Over the next decade, a number of product changes were made in efforts to attract younger buyers towards the Mercury brand, but nonetheless, Mercury still struggled to appeal its brand identity to younger buyers. Although the division's full-size and mid-size sedans performed well in the marketplace, Mercury phased out smaller cars completely in favor of minivans and SUVs. The Tracer was discontinued in 1999 (three years before the Escort) and the Mystique was dropped in mid-2000.
For 1999, the Cougar was re-introduced after a year's hiatus. In a major shift from its personal-luxury predecessor, the 1999 Cougar was a front-wheel drive sports coupe based on the Mystique; it was largely intended as the successor to the Ford Probe. For the first time since the 1991 Capri, Mercury was given a product line with no direct Ford equivalent (in North America). After finding only moderate success with buyers, the Cougar ended production in 2002. 2003 would lead to the revival of the Marauder nameplate. Not unlike its 1969–1970 predecessor, the 2003 Marauder was a higher-performance variant of the Grand Marquis that was also similar in many ways to the 1994–1996 Chevrolet Impala SS. Due to lack of marketing, the Marauder was discontinued after 2004.
In 2004, the Monterey would replace the Villager. A clone of the Ford Freestar, the Monterey gave Mercury its first direct competition against the Chrysler Town and Country and other luxury minivans. As the minivan segment was in decline, neither Ford nor Mercury was able to gain any ground; Ford ended minivan production in 2007.
After relative stagnation, during the mid-2000s, Ford targeted much of the Mercury product range for update. In line with the controversial "F" naming scheme adopted by Ford, Mercury adopted an "M" scheme for its product range. Reaction to the Mercury nomenclature was less extreme, as several identifiable nameplates were reintroduced to the brand. In 2004, Mercury replaced the long-running Villager with the Mercury Monterey; marketed as a competitor for the Chrysler Town and Country, the Monterey was the first Mercury-brand minivan developed by Ford. In 2005, the division reintroduced the Mercury Montego, its first new full-size sedan since 1992. A counterpart of the Ford Five Hundred, the Montego was developed as a replacement for the Sable (discontinued during 2005); the Grand Marquis remained in production. Based on the compact Ford Escape/Mazda Tribute, the Mercury Mariner became the second SUV for the division. For 2006, the Sable was more closely replaced in size with the introduction of the mid-size Mercury Milan. A counterpart of the Ford Fusion, the Milan was produced solely in sedan configuration (no station wagon version was developed). In 2006, the division introduced its first hybrid vehicle, with the introduction of the Mercury Mariner hybrid SUV.
In 2008, after sales had fallen to one-third of 2000 levels, the Mercury division began to remarket its largest vehicles. After being outsold nearly five-to-one by the Grand Marquis, for the 2008 model year, the Montego nameplate was retired in favor of Sable (as Ford would replace its Five Hundred with the Taurus) as part of a mid-cycle update. The Monterey was discontinued for the 2008 model year; as the minivan segment decreased in size, potential Mercury customers were shifting towards vehicles such as the Mariner and Mountaineer.
In 2008, Ford started an ad campaign starring actress Jill Wagner that focused exclusively on attracting female drivers to the brand in hopes of making it more profitable. (This campaign was just the opposite of the marque's 1960s image, when Mercury was branded as "The Man's Car".) In a failure, it narrowed the brand image and buyer appeal of the division even deeper, and sales continued to fall.
On June 2, 2010, Ford announced the closure of the Mercury line by the end of the year. In terms of sales, Mercury represented only 1 percent of North America's automobile market compared to the 16-percent share of Ford. Ford Motor Company had stated that additional Lincoln models would be introduced to help replace any shortfall from the discontinued Mercury brand. At the time of the announcement, Mercury was selling fewer than 95,000 units a year; less than either Plymouth and Oldsmobile had sold before they were phased out.
The Mercury Mountaineer was discontinued at the end of the 2010 model year, with the Mariner, Milan, and Grand Marquis following suit after an abbreviated 2011 model year. In 2010, its final full year in the United States, Mercury would sell 93,195 vehicles (265,000 fewer vehicles less than in 2000). After the formal closure of the Mercury brand at the end of 2010, the Mercury name disappeared from Lincoln-Mercury dealers; in December 2012, the Lincoln Division was rebranded the Lincoln Motor Company.
|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 Canada
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.
After 1999, Ford discontinued the Mercury brand in Canada. The popularity of the Mercury Grand Marquis in the country would lead to its continued sale in Canada (as a Ford) until it ended production in 2011.
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; poor Canadian sales of the Edsel 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 van/pickup 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.
Throughout its use by Ford Motor Company, the brand image of Mercury remained somewhat flexible. Although the original 1939 Mercury Eight was designed specifically for the division, in 1941, to save costs, Ford changed the Mercury to become a higher-trim version of the Ford line. With the creation of the Lincoln-Mercury DIvision following World War II, Mercury shared its bodyshell with Lincoln when their first postwar vehicles were introduced for 1949; this would be used for most of the 1950s. During the creation of the Edsel Division, the Mercury model line was redesigned with all-new models, sharing underpinnings with the premium models of the Edsel line. As the Edsel division became Ford-based after 1958, the 1957-1960 Mercury line was largely unique to the division; Lincoln had moved upmarket with what would be the largest unibody vehicles ever produced.
Following the introduction of the 1961 Lincoln Continental, Mercury returned to the use of Ford bodyshells; full-size cars were typically distinguished by a longer wheelbase. Adding to the flexibility of the brand was the joint performance/luxury image, though the latter image would become predominant during the 1970s.
During a number of model replacements, downsizings, and redesigns in the 1970s and early 1980s, Ford and Mercury versions of the same vehicle began to see less model differentation, with little more than grilles and taillights separating them. Sales, however, remained strong. During the 1980s, to better distinguish their model line, several design features were introduced, including the "bubbleback" hatch of the Mercury Capri and LN7, the roofline of 1980s Mercury Cougar (influenced somewhat by the AMC Gremlin). The Mercury Sable eschewed a conventional grille entirely in favor of a lightbar, a feature shared with several subsequent Mercury sedans. Although a clone of the Mazda Familia-based Ford Laser, the 1988 Mercury Tracer was the first Mercury in a decade with no Ford-badged equivalent in North America.
By 1990, only the Grand Marquis and Colony Park station wagon openly shared Ford bodyshells; they had both received only superficial updates since their 1979 downsizing. However, with the redesign of the Grand Marquis, Mercury was given its own bodyshell. The lightbar introduced by the Sable was phased out and replaced by a vertical "waterfall" grille, which was introduced on the 1997 Mercury Mountaineer.
The first logo of the Mercury brand was its namesake, the Roman god Mercury. The side profile of his head, complete with the signature bowl hat with wings was used during the early years, seen in the adjacent picture.
In the 1950s, 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.
From the late 1960s until the mid-1980s, Mercury used the "Sign of the Cat" ad campaign based on its popular Cougar model. Many of the cars during this time carried cat related names such as the Lynx and Bobcat. On some of the upper-tier models, such as the Marquis and Grand Marquis, Mercury used a shield or cross, sometimes surrounded by a wreath, which was shared by some deluxe Ford models as well. Some models used the Lincoln brand's logo.
During the mid-1980s, the logo changed from the Cougar to its final logo, seen in the logo at the top of the page. This logo was introduced on the 1984 Mercury Topaz. Since 1999, the word "Mercury" appeared on the top part of the logo.
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- Special-Interest Autos: 19. July–August 1974. Missing or empty
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- Allmusic biography
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Mercury vehicles.|
- Mercury Vehicles. Ford Motor Company. Retrieved April 26, 2016.
Mercury passenger vehicle timeline, 1940–1979 — next »
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|Colony Park||Colony Park||Colony Park||Colony Park||Colony Park||Colony Park|
|Sports car||Capri||Capri II||Capri|
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