I’m willing to bet at least all of us have humored another individual with at least one insincere compliment, word of encouragement, or token of appreciation in the moment before. Whether this was actually to make better the day of someone we feel pity for, just to make ourselves feel a bit better inside, or to take the easy route and avoid conflict, it’s something that extends beyond human interaction. Enter the Mercury Tracer.
Initially a brief Mazda 323 (and Japanese/Australian-market Ford Laser) clone, the Tracer name was soon applied to a version of Ford’s popular Escort (which was still based on the 323’s platform) sold exclusively through slightly higher-rent Lincoln-Mercury franchises.
Allegedly a slightly upscale compliment to the “basic” Escort, apart from not having a stripper base model, the Mercury Tracer was really no more luxurious in any way than the Ford. And really, how many potential value-conscious Escort buyers ventured into Grand Marquis/Town Car-heavy showrooms to buy the exact same economy car with a slightly more upscale aura?
Despite this, Lincoln-Mercury dealers must have been clamoring for a bargain-basement, entry-level vehicle to replace the Lynx, which in turn replaced the Bobcat. Ford’s application of the Tracer name to the Escort must have been the manufacturer’s way of humoring its higher-end division with a pity compliment. After all, it’s not like it cost very much to add some different taillight lenses, a lightbar grille, and a little chrome.
Now I apologize to some of our older readers if they don’t get the reference to the 2004 film, Mean Girls (a somewhat iconic film of my generation), but Ford’s “gift” of the Tracer was just as insincere as a Regina George “compliment”. It’s highly unlikely that Ford expected the Tracer to sell in impressive numbers, and the Mercury Tracer was just another of example of quick badge engineering to milk a little more revenue out of a car by selling it through a different dealer network. Pity. I know, right?