We had so much fun at The Garage digging up the old Eagle brand, it was hard to stop there. If you thought the Eagle brand was short-lived, consider the fate of Merkur. These cars only met our side of the Atlantic from 1985-1989.Ã‚Â
To make sense of these misunderstood cars, let’s take a step back in time. Reagan had been in the White House a few years, the economy was going strong, and we had this strange new breed of buyers called “yuppies.” Said group were buying BMW 3-series as fast as they could make them, and Ford sensed that this demographic weren’t responding to the Tempo. What Ford did know at the time, was that they had two model lines that were raging sales successes in Europe. Surely, if they simply brought those cars here, everything would be OK. Wouldn’t it? Here are the two Merkurs:
1985-1989 Merkur XR4Ti
The XR4Ti was based on the hugely successful Ford Sierra, and it was the closest car in their vehicle portfolio at the time to compete against the E30 BMW’s. The car was powered by a 2.3L turbocharged 4-cylinder engine sourced from the Ford Mustang SVO, its drivetrain either a three-speed automatic or a five-speed manual. Perhaps the most recognizable feature of the XR was its bi-plane rear spoiler. Car and Driver claimed a top speed of 130mph, and 0-60mph in 7 seconds.Ã‚Â
1988-1989 Merkur Scorpio
The Scorpio, another successful seller in Europe, found few buyers in North America. Unlike the XR4Ti, the Scorpio had a 2.9 liter V-6 instead of a four cylinder. At the time, the Saab 9000 owned the premium five-door hatch market, and the Scorpio never made a dent.Ã‚Â
What is interesting about Merkur is that it was by invitation to Lincoln-Mercury dealers. 800 signed up. The XR and Scorpio did not fail because they were awful cars-they were failed by Ford, who had no clue how to sell a car to the customer who might consider one instead of a BMW. Salespeople accustomed to pushing Town Cars out the door to seniors were no match against young, educated buyers who were cross-shopping BMW’s and Audi’s. Perhaps the biggest mistake was naming a brand that no one knew how to pronounce. Merkur is said Mare (like a horse) coor (like the beer). Merkur is actually German for Mercury, but no one in North America cared about that, and it showed.Ã‚Â
This story is relevant now, because right now, Ford of Europe are building great cars that meet our needs in a declining economy. If you haven’t, get a copy of the November issue of Automobile Magazine. Ford had a chance with Merkur, and blew it. Time for a second chance.