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November 4, 1938 – Ford Motor Company debuts Mercury

mercury from debut year.
1939 Mercury. By Sicnag – CC BY 2.0

Ford Motor Company unveiled its new mid-priced automobile brand Mercury on this day in 1938 at a public showing in Grosse Pointe, Michigan. Championed by Edsel Ford, Mercury sought to fill the gap between more affordable Fords and luxury Lincolns. The market for this type of car had been proven by its primary competitors, such as Oldsmobile, Buick and Chrysler. In its debut year nearly 66,000 Mercurys went home to new buyers, who could have one for as little as $916 about $18,000 in 2022.

While Mercury received unique bodies in its early years, it soon began to share lines with its Ford and Lincoln kin. Following WWII, the brand received an all new body in 1949, kicking off what would become a relatively successful decade. In 1950 the 1,000,000th Mercury rolled off the assembly line and sales continued to march upward, until the economy and friendly fire took a toll on the brand. The 1958 recession and the introduction of the Edsel harmed Mercury sales, yet it still outsold Edsel two to one, it would take all of 1958 and 1959 to sell the same amount of cars as 1957.

Mercury Through the Ages

After a rough end to the 1950s, Mercury began to recoup its losses in the 1960s. In 1967 two of its most popular vehicles hit the market, the Marquis and the Cougar, the latter being Mercury’s version of the Ford Mustang. The 1970s proved to be overall positive for Mercury as the company cruised through the decade full of oil crisis, emissions regulations and enhanced safety standards that took a bite out of many car companies’ sales.

1967 Mercury Cougar. By inkknife_2000 CC BY-SA 2.0

The Mercury lineup grew through the 1980s and 1990s to include options such as the Capri, Villager, and Tracer. In 1997 the Mountaineer rolled into dealerships as an upscale option to the Ford Explorer. However, by 2001 the Tracer and Mystique faded into history, and the Cougar would go on a two year hiatus between 1997 and 1999. Modernization efforts in the early 2000s proved to be difficult for Mercury executives and as the brand suffered an identity crisis, sales slumped too.

The Last Mercury Car

Mercury tried to shift from luxury car to performance car to no avail. As sales faltered, a last ditch effort to attract female drivers with a spendy ad campaign hit the air. It too failed as the 2008 recession grasped the nation. There was no saving Mercury. In 2010 Ford announced the end of Mercury. On January, 4, 2011 the final Mercury, a Grand Marquis, rolled out of the factory. For fans of the brand, it is nice to know that Mercury remains a registered trademark of Ford until at least 2025.

2011 Mercury Grand Marquis, similar to the last Mercury built. By Greg Gjerdingen from Willmar, USA CC BY 2.0

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