"We left quite a bit of body roll on purpose. Jackie Stewart even recommended it"
Ron Reume, Car import specialist, Ford Motor Company
From the start, the car suffered from in identity crisis. Bob Lutz, who was chairman of Ford Europe at the time (and who went on to become the President of Chrysler), wanted to differentiate the new German import from its established Mustang and Tempo product lines. The decision was made to market the car under a unique name Merkur, German for Mercury. The name didnt exactly roll off the tongue and Ford needed the educate its sales personnel, and the public in how to pronounce the name Mare-coor. One early embarrassment was that the name was mispronounced in several TV advertising campaigns! Anyone who knows anything about marketing knows that to make a product successful, the name has to be catchy, easy to remember, and above all roll off the tongue. This name, while clever, had none of these qualities.
"The fleet-footed Merkur dusts the Bimmer in straight-line performance"
The automotive press was full of reviews and comparisons between other cars in its class the BMW 318, Saab 900, Audi 4000. A TV advertising campaign featuring respected Formula 1 race car driver Jackie Stewart was aired to support the January 85 launch on the West coast, and three months later in the rest of North America. The Merkur XR4Ti was expensive at $16,503, considering the buyer wasnt buying a well-established name such as BMW, Audi or Saab. Four years later, in 1989, buyers were awarded cash incentives of up to $4,000, although by then the list price had risen to $19,039.
"The XR4Ti started out as an unknown and remains one"
Car & Driver 1988
Ford had predicted sales of around 15,000/year, and that the XR4Ti would be the first of a complete family of quality European imports. Unfortunately due to the reasons mentioned, and a love-hate relationship with the large rear spoiler, sales struggled to break the 12,000 mark. For the 1988 model year, the rear spoiler was redesigned to a more subtle single wing and the lower gray body cladding was color keyed to that of the car. In addition, the number of dealerships was cut back to 600 nationwide. These changes were not enough to turn sales around, and despite favorable reviews, it was too late. Ford cancelled the program in 1989 after a total of only 42,464 cars had been produced.