Everyone knows that Bob Lutz has always been a steadfast champion of badge engineering. While some of his attempts have worked, many have flopped.
One such ill-fated model, or brand rather, is Merkur, which was Lutz’s idea of a trans-Atlantic badge-engineered brand that would help his then employer Ford take on European rivals such as BMW.
While he was heading Ford’s European business, Lutz thought it would be a brilliant idea to take the humble Sierra hatchback, slap a new badge on to it, and a turbocharged engine under its bonnet, and market it as a premium brand in America.
As it turned out, it was anything but a bright idea. For one, despite its unique styling and rear-wheel drive layout, the Sierra had nothing premium about it. And it was plain silly to think that this car with a new badge would be able to tackle the might of the 3 Series in the US market.
Anyway, as always, Maximum Bob had his way, and in 1985, Ford launched a new brand in America with a distinctly German name, Merkur, with the rebadged Sierra as its first model.
Since General Motors had the patent for the Sierra model name, Ford took the XR4i specification of the European Sierra and added a T to it, denoting the turbocharged engine, and the car debuted with the name XR4Ti.
In spite of an elaborate marketing campaign, the new brand didn’t take off as expected, and it was soon clear that American car buyers didn’t share Lutz’s enthusiasm and optimism.
While initial sales projections expected 15,000 units annually, Ford could sell just over 42,000 of these in five years, which was less than a year’s sales figures of the 3 Series in the US market.
Eventually, the XR4Ti crumbled under the weight of unreasonable expectations and had to be discontinued in 1989.