The TACH Report: 1999 Mercury Cougar is Gnarly, Phat, Real George, and Cool

6 June 1998


Mark Hutchins is the new V.P. Ford Motor Company and General Manager of
the Lincoln Mercury division.  He is also a symbol of the American
success/"stick-with-it" story.  He started in the mail room at a Ford
zone office in 1965, two years before the Mercury Cougar was hatched.
Now he is the point man for this brand, and proud of his new small
specialty segment two door coupe, which is clearly aimed, sales-wise,
at women buyers.  Hutchins reminds one of ex-Chevrolet General Manager
Jim Perkins, who had a similar "“a- shucks" one-of-the-boys, down-home
home countenance.  Dealers love it.  Even though the man is going to
make 500 grand this year he'’s still one of US!

Hutchins and everyone at L-M is excited about the new Cougar, because for
the first time in its 30-year history it will be a stand alone vehicle,
not a Ford T-Bird clone.  Product Manager Mike Jennings covered the
philosophy behind the styling and assembly of the new Cougar and pointed
out dramatically how the car wars have changed in the past thirty
years.  The 1968 Cougar went out the showroom door at about $1.00 per
pound sales price. The car weighed 3000 pounds and the base price was
$2851.  

The sleek teardrop styled 2-door features what Mercury calls, new edge
styling and it is a bit reminiscent of the Lincoln 2000 show car that
made the car show circuit a few years ago.  The coupe comes in two
flavors. The I-4 is a peppy 125 hip. 16 valve four-Bangor that comes
only with a 5-speed box and the V6 Duratech puts out 170 ponies and
comes either with 5-speed or automatic trans. Go for the 5-speed. It’s
the most fun to drive.

The Cougar has target sales demographics aimed at women buyers and
Mercury says they are 29-49 years of age, income is $55,000, 40% are
married and many are professional people and the key to this whole niche
is that they are individualists who know what they want and it is not
another me-too car.  They say styling is of prime importance in selecting
new wheels and these intenders are fashion conscious. Cougar is just
right for this group. The base price of $17,000 is attractive and so is
the 25-29mpg fuel economy rating.

It’s a hatchback and a lot of emphasis has been placed on EZ entry
(groceries) of the rear hatch and child seat and their anchor points.
There’s a long list of options including a sunroof, leather, power
everything and trick wheels and when you put the whole package together
cover it in antique gold you will hear curbside comments...depending the
color of the moon in your world  like...”narly man”,” real phatt”,”
Super  George” and “real cool”  Honest...been there...heard t!

Bill Maloney -- The Auto Channel

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