Out now: the Autocade Yearbook 2024
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Out now: Autocade Yearbook 2024

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Edsel Ford spotted a gap between everyday American Fords and the Lincoln Zephyr, and plugged it with the 1939 Mercury Eight, creating a new marque. The brand functioned much in the same way Buick does for General Motors: not quite mainstream, not quite luxury, either.

In the 1950s, Mercurys were known for style and new technology, while the 1960s saw Mercury introduce a small premium car, the Comet, helped by its competition successes. The Mercury Cougar was a high-profile and attractive counterpart to the Ford Mustang, with its own styling.

However, as the 1970s wore on, Mercurys became little more than upscale Fords, and were perceived as such. There have been attempts to give it unique models—the Nissan Quest-based Villager and the revived Cougar in the late 1990s—but Mercury tended to fall back on its old habits. The cars were generally plusher than Fords and could begin with larger base engines, but grilles aside, the differences were few.

By 2010, Mercury could only muster 0·8 per cent of the US market, while a resurgent Ford increased its share by 2·2 per cent. With no stand-alone Mercury dealers, the brand fell to a low. In June, Ford announced that the last Mercury car would be produced in the fourth quarter of the year.

q.v. Ford, Lincoln

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Out now: Autocade Yearbook 2024