Dream Cars: 2010 & 2015 Mercury Cougar, and a Return of Mercury
Topics: Mercury, Mercury Cougar
May 10, 2014
Lately I've been taking an interest in Ford, and while I'm still a bit sad at Pontiac's demise on the General Motors side I haven't spent much time on Ford's loss of Mercury.
It was a move that made sense in the traditional auto industry sense of streamlining advertising, combining operations, and cutting redundancies in a recession.
Chrysler was able to separate Ram from Dodge and bring Fiats to markets that didn't warrant their own Fiat dealership by combining all their dealerships under one roof in each market. They were able to do this by consolidating dealerships and reducing competition among its own brands by separate dealerships in the same market.
For too long, Mercury cars have been Fords very thinly disguised with a little extra chrome. Paired in dealerships with Lincoln, they were trying to compete (and losing) against big-volume Ford dealerships that could undercut the Merc by selling cars with all of the same major features at a much lower price.
First of all, as Mercury is now gone, the way to bring it back is the same as I've said for Pontiac. You don't have to create a full line in a consolidated dealership model, a marque can exist with one or two vehicles because every dealership overall still carries a full line. There's no direct competition, no thinly disguised badge engineering to make sure the Mercury dealerships carry a compact, midsize, full size, minivan, and different sizes of SUV. No brand sales targets, just individual vehicle goals.
So, my idea comes in two forms. One is, perhaps, the "halo car," the brand identity that could have saved Mercury, and the other is a slightly updated form to bring it back.
In the late 2000's, Mercury underwent major styling changes to differentiate them from the Fords they were based on. I really loved this last style, with straight lines and squarish lights it reminded me of the straight-edge styles of the mid-1960's Mercurys.
The exception to this, unfortunately, was their top selling Grand Marquis, a car with an old sounding name, an old style, and an old group of buyers (nothing wrong with that if that's what you're aiming for, and it's an under served market). Their image could have, should have, been based on a vehicle created from the Mustang.
Why mess with the iconic Mustang? Well, I'd never replace it with a different vehicle, but the Mustang isn't everybody's cup of tea. To some, it's classless, juvenile, and flashy. This why car companies have luxury sub-brands to begin with. Few buyers want their $60,000 luxury car to have the same styling and branding as the $10,000 econocar. There's a huge potential for a V8, rear wheel drive Mustang-based luxury car.
Now, when some say, "2010 Mercury Cougar" (2010 being Mercury's last full year), they expect another retromobile cashing in on past styling, something reminiscent of the 1969 Cougar. I was just thinking of using the name because of the original Cougar's connection to the Mustang. I was thinking of the power and performance of the Mustang underneath the Mercury styling, subdued color palette, and interior design of the 2010 Milan and Sable. Something that would look as though it belonged in that last Mercury lineup, a car that had the punch of a Mustang GT underneath a dark metallic paint and a cream leather interior.
Well, that's still possible. With the new Mustang's more advanced worldwide platform, the car begs for a classier body style to match. Sure, the classic Mustang is great for nostalgia and flashy sports car performance, but Ford needs a body that looks more at home under the matte brown paint of the upscale European Ford Vignale versions.
I'd start with the 2010 Mercury lineup and work even more of the classic mid-60's straight-edge styling cues into the car. The interior would be warm, natural tones, with real wood and leathers in colors other than gray or black. Instruments that put classic analog style into the digital displays, not for being retro, but so as to not look like you're driving a child's Nintendo.
The badge should be different, because the old M-in-a-circle just wasn't very distinctive, and reminiscent now of a past best forgotten to my generation.
The Mercury marque's name was taken from the Roman God of the same name. Mercury was depicted as having winged shoes, a winged helmet, and being known for "messages, eloquence, and of trade...a god of abundance and commercial success." (Wikipedia)
I think that bringing the Roman god back into the marketing of the car would appeal to the luxury-minded young professionals that the car would appeal to. Mercury's original logo was Mercury's head in profile, and while that's a little much for a modern car logo, perhaps the winged helmet, in bronze on the center of the steering wheel, would be a distinctive touch that sets this car apart from the ambiguous chrome ovals of so many other luxury brands.
Then, as one car is certainly not enough to sell at its own line of dealerships, I'd send it to Ford dealerships, to complement the line of Mustangs they already sell. If it takes off, further models can follow based on the Fusion or Taurus. The Mercury's classier style and the ability to market a connection to commerce can also be used to market a line of Mercury work vehicles that would put forth a better image for businesses than the bargain-basement Ford vans. A Mercury version of the Transit would be a good competitor to the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, a Mercury version of the Flex would make an outstanding airport limo, and a panel-side version of that would make a wonderful high-end delivery vehicle.
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