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The Mercury

Posted by charlesdowney on April 4, 2008

Mercury’s range is quite small and very similar to those sold under the Ford brand. Many industry observers have questioned whether Mercury will survive in the long term, but Ford insists that there is no intentions of letting the brand die. The introduction of new models, such as the Milan, and the Mariner, as well as the revival of the Sable would seem to bear that out. Its alliance with Lincoln has helped keep the brand alive; all Lincoln dealers also sell Mercury vehicles, as they desire some lower-priced vehicles in their showrooms.

Outside of ponycars, Mercury’s new-model development story in the ’70s was primarily one of “badge engineering.” It began when the Comet name was revived for a restyled version of Ford’s new-for-1970 compact Maverick, distinguished mainly by a Montego-style nose. Announced for 1971, this Comet soldiered on through ’74 as the division’s sole representative in a size and price sector that took on urgent new importance in the wake of the 1973-74 Middle East oil embargo.

Mercury decisively completed that maneuver in the ’80s, benefiting from the same astute management and timely product introductions that made Ford Motor Company the industry’s profit leader by 1986. Though no one Mercury line was among Detroit’s top-selling nameplates, the make’s total production rose rapidly from 347,700 for 1980 to a decade high of nearly half a million U.S.-built cars for ’84 — an impressive recovery, though still far below record ’79 (669,000-plus). On the model-year board, Mercury sat anywhere from sixth to ninth, as it had since the ’50s, but managed fifth for 1983, its best finish ever.

As before, the Mercury line paralleled Ford’s except for somewhat higher prices and different model/equipment mixes. Styling also remained similar through 1982, but the following year saw the return of a more-distinctive Mercury look. Much sooner than GM, Dearborn had correctly concluded that too many clones spoil the sales broth. With the 1983 models, Mercury cars and Mercury parts again began standing more clearly apart from parent Fords — and GM rivals — to the ­undoubted ­benefit of sales.


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