Mercury Motor Company launched their Mercury division in 1939 to offer mid-tier sedans between Ford’s entry-level Ford models and Lincoln luxury models, most often built upon Ford platforms.
Early on, Mercury distinguished itself from Ford by offering distinctive integrated body designs. These models quickly gained favor with hot rodders – so much so that James Dean even featured his customized 1949 Mercury Series 9CM in Rebel Without A Cause!
Why Did Ford Stop Making Mercury Cars?
Mercury was Ford’s mid-priced brand, filling a space between affordable Ford cars and luxurious Lincolns. Mercury initially used its own design and engineering to differentiate itself from Ford products; later however it housed rebadged models that shared only minor styling differences from Ford products. After Edsel’s production ended after only one year and hot rodding became more prevalent and import cars such as Volkswagen Beetles entered the scene, Mercury lost favor among buyers and sales declined significantly.
Mercury reduced their car line for the 2000 model year to two models – Cougar and Marquis – as well as light truck offerings (leaving only Villager minivan in market). Furthermore, Mercury stopped customizing Ford-based vehicles; instead modifying only one change: adding chrome vertical grille openings on Cougars and Grand Marquis models.
The Cougar was designed to fill a niche between Mustang and Thunderbird models, while Marquis served as a bridge between Ford LTD cars and higher-end ones like Chrysler New Yorkers or Oldsmobile Ninety Eights. Performance enthusiasts were offered additional performance models like Marauder which was constructed using Grand Marquis platforms.
In 1976, Mercury unveiled their pint-sized Pinto replacement: the Mercury Bobcat – available as a coupe, hatchback and station wagon – using their “Merc-O-Matic” automatic transmission on all models as well as decorative touches such as airfoil bumpers, jet scoop hoods and aviation-style instrument gauges.
In 1958, Canada adopted the Monarch nameplate to honor Mercury’s early history and avoid potential brand confusion with Ford Galaxie vehicles. Unfortunately, due to brand confusion concerns between Ford Galaxie models and Mercury cars in Canada, however, the Canadian market eventually dropped it and Mercury brand eventually ceased operations that year.
Mercury cars were discontinued from North American assembly lines in 2011 with Ford president, Mark Fields declaring it necessary so they could redirect resources towards revitalizing Lincoln models.
Will Mercury Cars Come Back?
Mercury gained prominence during the 1950s for creating cars that went beyond being just modified Fords. Their Mercury Messenger model became a favorite among hot rodders and even made an appearance in Rebel Without a Cause (1955). Furthermore, this model set an all-time speed record with its V8 engine at 125 mph!
By the 1960s, Mercury had expanded their range by adding sporty models like the Cougar and Marauder as direct competitors to Chevy Impala SS and Mustang GT models. Furthermore, Mercury introduced various station wagon models such as Commuter Voyager Colony Park.
Mercury’s line expanded throughout the 1970s as they added models like Capri and Bobcat as well as compact vehicles like Sable and Lynx, leading to sales more than doubling in this segment. They also offered SUVs like Montclair and Mountaineer.
Mercury made significant changes to their intermediate model range for the 1977 model year, including restructuring their slowest selling vehicles – such as the Cougar as an alternative to Ford Mustang and Taurus; redesign of Monterey; offering various sedan and station wagon body styles; etc.
At this point, Ford began focusing on improving both fuel economy and emissions while adding luxury-oriented models such as Mariner and Milan to its lineup – these models boasted their own distinct styling features that made them stand out.
As Mercury continued to add new models during the 2000s, they added several to its lineup – such as redesigns to its Cougar and Marauder models for this decade; furthermore, its Mystique and Tracer models were discontinued – eventually only three vehicles (Cougar, Sable and Grand Marquis) remain with unique styling that were sold directly to customers.
Mercury made significant strides forward in 2008 by redesigning their Montego and adding the Mariner hybrid SUV to their SUV lineup. Mercury even employed actress Jill Wagner in a campaign intended to attract female buyers and revive its image.
What If Mercury Cars Come Back?
While it is impossible to know for certain, there are signs that Mercury could make a comeback. After all, automakers don’t simply permanently discontinue models or car lines that no longer make financial sense or until demand has decreased significantly and production shifts away from these specific ones.
Mercury first debuted as an automobile brand in 1939 to fill a niche between Ford and Lincoln offerings, competing against both General Motors (GM) and what then was Chrysler (Chrysler). Unfortunately, Mercury quickly failed in attracting buyers in its target segment due to declining sales figures, an aging driver base, poor profitability and declining profitability; leading it into steady decline and eventually discontinuation altogether.
Ford made the difficult decision to phase out Mercury altogether in 2011. Ford kept going as long as possible with production and marketing of Mercury vehicles, but eventually decided it just wasn’t worth producing and marketing cars that no longer sold well.
Mercury brand vehicles in their final years were little more than marginally distinct versions of Ford division products – especially popular F-Series pickup trucks (as Mercury Marquis) and Explorer sport-utility vehicles (as Mercury Mountaineer). Only 2.6% of young buyers considered Mercury as a possible purchase according to research conducted by CNW Marketing.
Ford Motor Company maintained the Mercury brand despite low sales numbers, in hopes that a revival could occur. Unfortunately, this did not materialize and Dearborn ultimately decided to place Mercury into hibernation in favor of developing electric cars under Polestar and Volkswagen ID brands instead. With some luck and plenty of rebranding efforts the Mercury name may yet return; though likely not becoming the go-to choice among younger buyers.
What If The Cyclone Comes Back?
As with other iconic muscle cars from FoMoCo, the Mercury Cyclone enjoys something of a cult following. While not as well-known as Mustang, this superb looking car deserves to see more attention – which might just happen soon with HotCars teaming up with digital artist Bimble Designs to produce an amazing rendering of modern Mercury Cyclone!
As can be seen, this concept car shows how a modernized design could take elements from its predecessor while offering updated features and technology. The result would be a vehicle that not only looks good but would be fun to drive as well. Of course, this is just a hypothetical scenario, but shows what could happen should the brand return in full force.
Mercury underwent several changes during the 1960s, which saw them reposition themselves as a premium division of Ford. Their intermediate Montego line was revised to match Ford Torino styling while their Comet underwent significant redesign in order to compete against A-body coupes (Chevrolet Monte Carlo, Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme and Pontiac Grand Prix) for sales growth.
Mercury introduced the Cyclone name as part of an effort to increase performance credibility when they introduced a performance-oriented submodel of the Comet in 1964. By the end of the decade, however, the Cyclone had evolved into its own standalone model range above Cougar with an aerodynamically optimized Cyclone Spoiler II model homologated as their entry in NASCAR for 1969.
1972 saw the Mercury-De Tomaso Pantera enter production as a two-door midengine sports car, competing against models such as Porsche 911 and BMW 7-Series. Assembly took place by De Tomaso in Modena, Italy and featured Ford’s 351 cubic inch V8 (also used in Lincolns).
For 1974, Mercury unveiled another update for their Cougar model line as it became its own model line and transitioned from being part of Montego/Comet to Ford Mustang chassis; also getting its own distinctive taillamps and cat-head logo later adopted on other Mercury vehicles such as LN7. Also new was midsize Mountaineer competing against Ford Windstar and Lincoln Continental (Mercury claimed to build it “in Lincoln tradition”).