Mercury – The Death of a Giant and an American Dream
Updated August 11, 2012
Oh how the mighty have fallen. For a car company that had such grand beginnings they’ve faded out softer than a rock ballad from the 80’s. This is Mercury we’re talking about. This is a car company that rock and country stars wrote songs about. Songs like Brian Setzer’s 49 Mercury Blues and Mercury Blues by K. C. Douglas.
Mercurys were the all American car. They were huge. They weren’t so much cars as they were blue whales. The purpose of Mercury was to bridge the price gap between Ford’s top luxury car and the base Lincoln. And they did a pretty good job of it. The fact that they were cheap helped boost sales. Especially to every hot rodding teenager in America. Pretty soon the 1949 Mercury was getting chopped and dropped and painted in flames. These hot rodded Mercs became the centerpiece of cars shows. And just like that Mercury was accepted into the arms of American car culture with enthusiasm and adoration. It would be interesting to know how many children were conceived in the back seat of a Mercury during the 50’s and the 60’s. And it was up until the late 60’s that Mercury was getting exciting as a carmaker. Certainly the Cougar was a welcomed muscle car. It even won car of the year by Motor Trend magazine back in 1967. And then the 70’s came along and Mercury totally lost the plot. Especially with the so-called fuel crisis. Mercury had no idea what to do. They built massive gas gulping cars. The exact antithesis of what the market required at the time. They didn’t know how to build small. Neither did Ford. The ill-fated Pinto and its touchy gas tank were an obvious telling sign of that. And Mercury’s Bobcat was essentially a knockoff of the Pinto, which meant once the bad press got out sales plummeted for both.
Time went on and Mercurys just got uglier and uglier. It was obvious Mercury was desperately flailing about in the design department. They were no longer connecting with the youthful crowd and the influx of inexpensive Japanese luxury cars the competition got stiff. And that was when the slow and painful demise of Mercury really took form. By 2005 Mercury was drowning under its own weight and with the economic collapse in 2008 Ford decided to announce that Mercury had been given the death sentence. And at the end of 2010 Ford put a bullet in Mercury’s head, ending the car line for good.
It’s doubtful much could have saved Mercury at all. Perhaps realizing that building cars for an aging generation with a very limited time span left on the planet could have helped. Maybe transferring their focus from big ugly pseudo luxury cars to the compact hybrid market might have helped. They tried with the Bobcat once, so why not try for a version of the Focus. Likely making a real luxury sport coupe out of the Cougar to compete with the likes of the Infinity G37 would have been a shot in the arm.
Instead they faded away into oblivion like a boyband. Or like a child celebrity found dead in their home of an overdose. For a car company that once showed so much promise they simply became a statistic of their own making. If there was a tombstone it should read Mercury – The Death of a Giant and an American Dream.
Categories: Gear Grinding