Mercury is an automobile marque of the Ford Motor Company founded in 1939 to market semi-luxury cars slotted between entry-level Ford and luxury Lincoln models, similar to General Motors' Buick brand and DaimlerChrysler's Chrysler brand. To this day, most Mercury models are based on Ford platforms. The Mercury name comes from the Roman god Mercury and during its early years, the Mercury brand was known for performance.
Mercury was its own division at Ford until 1945 when it was combined with Lincoln into the Lincoln-Mercury Division, with Ford hoping the brand would be known as a "junior Lincoln", rather than an upmarket Ford. In 1949, Mercury introduced the first of its "new look", integrated bodies, at the same time that Ford and Lincoln also changed styling radically. Again in 1952, Mercury offered a further modernization in its look. In 1958, the Lincoln-Mercury Division and the ill-fated Edsel brand were joined into the Mercury-Edsel-Lincoln Division; with the demise of Edsel in 1960, it has been in the Lincoln-Mercury Division ever since.
Mercury, like the defunct Edsel, was created from scratch, rather than being a takeover of an existing company like Lincoln. Mercury's heyday was in the 1950's, when its formula of stretching and lowering existing Ford platforms was very successful. The brand has changed several times throughout its history. During the 1940s and 1950s, the make moved between as a "gussied up" Ford, to a "junior Lincoln" and even to having its own body designs. During the 1960s and early 1970s, Mercury began to distance itself from Ford and offered several different looking models such as the Cougar and Marquis. But in the late 1970s to the early 1980s the brand was joined at the hip with Ford again and its image suffered as a result.
Mercury sales peaked in 1993 at over 480,000. Since then, sales have declined by more than half to roughly 200,000 annually. The Mercury brand is used in the United States, and was used in Canada and Mexico. In 1999, Mercury models were renamed as Fords in both Mexico and Canada.
As of 2006, Mercury's range is quite small and very similar to those sold under the Ford brand. Many industry observers have questioned whether Mercury will survive in the long term, but Ford insists that there is no intention of letting the brand die. The introduction of new models, such as the Milan, the Montego, and the Mariner, and the upcoming Meta One concept (likely to be named Magellan) would seem to bear that out. Its alliance with Lincoln has helped keep the brand alive; all Lincoln dealers also sell Mercury vehicles, and they desire some lower-priced vehicles in their showrooms.
As part of their effort to re-assert the brand, Mercury has also begun implementing design elements common to all of their vehicles to create a more "unified" marque. These include an update of the signature "waterfall" front grille and badge lettering based on that of the last generation Cougar.