That Time Ford Bragged About Copying A Mercedes

Ford Motor Company essentially laid the groundwork for the automobile industry as we know it with the release of its first production car, the Model T. While many of the vehicles it's produced since have proven just as iconic, others failed to find footing in the U.S. automobile market. Somewhere in between iconic and forgettable was Ford's hulking and arguably underrated 1970s sedan, Granada

The vehicle debuted in 1975, with Ford marketing it as an upscaled offering to the middle American family who couldn't afford a luxury model. Presenting the Granada as an affordable, yet stylish alternative to legitimate luxury class vehicles, Ford's marketing team began comparing directly with actual luxury models in 1978. It was an ambitious move to say the least, if only because a base model '78 Granada was priced just under $4,000, roughly a quarter of the cost of the luxury sedan with which it was being compared, the $20,000 Mercedes-Benz 280.

So committed was Ford to the Mercedes Benz comparison concept, it put together an extensive ad campaign full of print and television spots that featured side-by-side comparisons of the vehicles to show just how alike they really were at a surface level. One such ad dared readers to try and tell one from the other with just the naked eye, and even offered a key so they could check their picks. But in making those comparisons, Ford essentially admitted it had taken a few obvious cues from the Mercedes-Benz build.   

The Granada never really matched up to its Mercedes counterpart

Yes, the Ford ads comparing the Granada to the Mercedes-Benz 280 were outlandish — some might even say they were downright crazy. But if you've seen either the print ads or television spots, you can see at least glimpse where Ford was coming from. Its Granada clearly shared similar, if decidedly boxier, exterior lines to the 280. So much so that even if Ford never directly acknowledged the idea, one has to wonder if its design team didn't take direct inspiration from the Mercedes model.

But even as clever as the Granada ad campaign was, it's likely nobody ever, under any circumstances, actually mistook the bulky vehicle for its sleeker Mercedes counterpart, unless they'd maybe had a few too many. That fact is so painfully obvious that the Ford ads actually feel a little tongue in cheek in retrospect. They might even be considered ingenious as works of comedic marketing, if only because the ads no doubt got people talking about the Granada. For proof of the fact, we'll simply note that it's been more than four decades since Ford pulled the plug on the Granada and we're still talking about these wacky Mercedes ads.

We'll likely never know for sure if a little cheek was the intent of Ford's marketing team with the Granada-Mercedes spots. But it's safe to assume that folks who've actually driven both the Ford Granada and the Mercedes Benz know that the similarities between the two did not extend far beyond the moderate-at-best interior and exterior likenesses.