What's the difference between a Ford Tempo and a Mercury Topaz?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Jul 01, 1993

Dear Tom and Ray:

I am interested in purchasing either a Ford Tempo or a Mercury Topaz. The Mercury dealer says they are different, which explains why the Mercury costs more. Yet physically, they look the same. Please explain.

TOM: They're exactly the same car, Mandel. The Mercury dealer is trying to buffalo you.

RAY: We looked up both cars in our AutoNet database just to see. And here is the most significant difference we found: Under "Standard Features," the Topaz lists "Nomenclature: MERCURY under driver's side headlamp and on right side of deck lid." To the best of my knowledge, you can't get that on the Ford Tempo.

TOM: There are two possible explanations for why the Mercury costs more. One is that it may have different OPTIONAL equipment added to it. For instance, if the particular Mercury Topaz you're looking at has a fancy radio or power windows, and the Ford Tempo you looked at doesn't, that could explain the difference in price.

RAY: The other explanation is simply a marketing one. Some people perceive a Mercury as being fancier than a run-of-the-mill Ford. So the Mercury dealers can charge a little more for a Ford Tempo that says "Mercury Topaz" on it.

TOM: So if you're not overly concerned about your image (and judging from the cars you're considering, you're not), then get the Ford if it's cheaper. It's the same exact car, and besides, the Ford dealer isn't trying to pull a fast one on you.

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