The Mercury Cougar is an automobile which was sold under the Mercury brand of the Ford Motor Company's Lincoln-Mercury Division from 1967 to 2002. The name was first used in 1967 and was carried by a diverse series of cars over the next three decades. As is common with Mercury vehicles, the Cougar shared basic platforms with Ford models. Originally this was the Mustang, but later versions of the Cougar were based on the Thunderbird, and the last was a version of the Contour/Mondeo. The Cougar was important to Mercury's image for many years, and advertising often identified its dealers as being "at the sign of the cat." Female models holding big cats on leashes were used on Cougar ads in the early 1970s. The car was assembled at the Dearborn Assembly Plant (DAP) (one of six plants within the Ford Rouge Center) in Dearborn, Michigan from 1967 to 1973, at the San Jose Assembly Plant in Milpitas, California from 1968 into early 1969 and at the Lorain Assembly Plant (LAP) in Lorain, Ohio from 1974 to 1997.