The Taurus Could Rise Again At Ford

Posted by: David Kiley on January 4, 2007

Ford CEO Alan Mulally as a fan of the recently discontinued Taurus, so much so that he recently rented one while traveling to check it out. Mulally, who joined Ford from Boeing last September, became a fan of the Taurus 20 years ago when he studied Ford’s production system for the car for a project he was doing at the aircraft company.
“I havent had time to do the deep dive on why we stopped investing in Taurus, but I’d like to,” says Mulally…..the Ford Five Hundred should have been the new Taurus.”

The day after Mulally said this, Ford Division’s new marketing chief Barry Engle was kvetching about the fact that the Fusion is a name known only to 30% of buyers in the mid-size car segment, the name having been launched just a year ago. Asked why Ford doesn’t rename the Fusion or the Five Hundred “Taurus,” Engle said, “Stranger things have happened.” “I don;t know why we invest hundreds of millions of dollars in a name over 20 years and then walk away from it,” he added.

Ford’s naming skills are comical. Mulally joked this week that he was still looking for his Lincoln Zephyr to drive. Of cource, the Zephyr name was dropped in favor MKZ for this model year. Even Ford sales analysis chief George Pipas referred to the Zephyr in this week’s sales call before correcting himself.

Ford got down on the Taurus name because they all knew that they had damaged the name after so many years of botched design and no investment, and then by turning the car into a rental donkey. But I’m not sure I wouldn’t be tempted to ditch the Five Hundred name and give it the Taurus badge with a whole new positioning. Given how Ford has screwed up the marketing of the Five Hundred, I could think of worse ideas than rechristening it Taurus.

Reader Comments

C. A. Martin

January 4, 2007 8:32 PM

I think the Taurus name has 10 full years of damage to it, and I can't say that I'd have expected it to fare any better than "Five Hundred" or "Fusion"...the latter of which has been gaining momentum. The Five Hundred is a very good car, but Ford's advertisers just deserted it.

Chris

January 5, 2007 9:28 AM

Yeah, they should bring back the Taurus name. I Taurus saved Ford if they didn't know by now.

Don Mallinson

January 5, 2007 11:24 AM

Since the Taurus was still selling very well to the end, I doubt that there was much damage to the name. Certainly it would have been easier to upgrade the Taurus and keep moving foward than create a new name that had ZERO good will.

Think Honda will dump the Accord and Civic, or Toyota the Corolla or Camry? Heck no. They must have been dancing in the halls in Japan and Germany (and Korea) when Ford Execs did the bonehead move and dumped the Taurus.

Tom

January 5, 2007 11:51 AM

The Mustang nameplate was hung on terrible, pathetic cars in the 1970s and 80s, and they didn't retire that one. There's still more equity in Taurus than in Five Hundred. Also, the Taurus when it appeared was a distinctive, exciting vehicle and some of that aura lingers today. From day one, the Five Hundred was a big, dull, nearly invisible brick of Velveeta. You could still transfer some excitement to the car by employing the Taurus brand wisely.

FordLemon's Crew

January 5, 2007 12:05 PM

I think Ford sucks.

Visit our website to know why.

www.fordlemon.com

or

www.mustangsucks.com

Brendan Moore

January 5, 2007 12:11 PM

PRODUCTION of the Ford Taurus ceased after 21 years. The Taurus was the second-best selling car in Ford history with production volume of more than 7 million units, second only to the Model T. And let me add that millions more Mercury Sables (Mercury’s Taurus clone) were sold as well. It’s really a bit shameful what Ford did to the Taurus in terms of neglect. They didn’t stick a knife in it in the 90’s, but instead just put it in a corner and stopped feeding it, letting a great nameplate slowly starve to death. Ford could have used some of the immense profits generated by their truck and SUV lines in the 90’s to keep improving the Taurus and maintain the brand as the meaty middle of their car lineup, a la the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, VW Passat, etc., and thereby kept it competitive, but of course they didn’t. Yeah, why bother? It’s amazing it lasted as long as it did, frankly. It's not a bad idea to bring back the Taurus nameplate - maybe a significantly different version of the Fusion or the Five Hundred would be the ticket. It doesn't make sense to strip either of those cars of their current name, but a derivative of either of those cars would be something to consider. It would have to be truly different, though - engines, interiors, sheetmetal, etc. Consumers see through cheap badge engineering pretty quickly these days. Just as an aside, the very last Taurus went to Truett Cathy, the founder of the Chick-fil-A restaurant chain. He credits the success of his very first store in Hapeville, GA to the fact that it was across the street from a Ford production plant that churned out the Taurus. He plans to put the sedan in the auto section in the Chick-fil-A company museum.

Rob

January 5, 2007 12:14 PM

Gents:

Detroit's ongoing identity crisis is best explained by its inept car-naming practices.
Clearly they are spending too much time staring at their navel - when wondering what to name their new cars.

Take Chevy's new OPTRA. For cryin out loud guys. What's with the dyslexic triple back-to-back consonants ? Oph Ter Rah. Now say it three times fast. I give it a 3 out of 10, with a 5.5 from the East German judge.

But other new names keep it simple, thrify and neat with names like AVEO.

Why can't we keep those cool names so often used at the auto shows for concept cars - instead of turning this important issue over to those weirdos in marketing. Try the REMIX. This name automatically gets your curiosity going. What is it ? Where's it from ? What's it do ?

Oh well, since when has Detroit ever been guilty of trafficing in mystique?

Rob

A. Wofford

January 5, 2007 2:06 PM

"Five Hundred", as Ford has taught us to write it, doesn't suffer from botched advertising, but a poor image -- it is the Oldsmobile of FMC. Rumors of some additional horsepower are sure to help, but as Ford should know by now, even the perpetually mondane Tarus benifed from a limited-production high-performance model (SHO). They should put the 4.6L V8 in a few Five Hundreds and build their image on that. However, some might say failed attempts to Hi-Po a car in this class include the enjoyable, now defunct, Boniville SSEi -- a car that didn't die until far more than 10 years of damage done, and the complete rework of a division.

DCA

January 5, 2007 4:23 PM

The Five Hundred is the new Taurus. If Ford can admit to that, ditch those lame "F-words", invest properly in it, and have some faith that the name Taurus still carries some weight, then I think they will be OK.

Bobby

January 5, 2007 5:41 PM

The Taurus name is a prime example of where all the U.S. auto manufactures have made mistakes playing the name game. Honda, Nissan and Toyota tend to stick with a model with continual development. Their customers become familiar then loyal to the model and stick with the company. The U.S. so called Big 3 could learn from this. It's too late for the name Taurus, so just stick with the 500 and Fusion names and market the cars to the public. Advertisement will breed sales!

Gordon

January 6, 2007 9:37 AM

2008 will be the 50th anniversary of one of Ford's "Better Ideas". Rename the Five Hundred the Edsel !!
Or given Ford's marketing penchant for stupid alpha numeric monikers, rename the the Fusion as the Ford SUX !!

shawn

January 6, 2007 8:50 PM

Ford constantly does this with once best or very close to best sellers in the segment. Lincoln LS, Windstar, Continental, Taurus, even thought of Mustang dumping replace by Probe. They get us to buy and then leave the vehicles languish with no updates. Ranger, Town Car, Grand Marquis, are suffering similar fate.

Thankfully someones asking questions like "Why?"

Loukas Zannopoulos

January 7, 2007 4:15 AM

I would love for Ford to bring the Taurus back. The Taurus has proven for me to be the most reliable car that I have owned. I have had more trouble with foreign cars than my Taurus. To this day I have a 1998 Taurus SHO V8. Aside from the cam issue that is easily resolved by welding. I have only occured no more than $100 in mechanical issues asides for the basic maint. Hey for a 9 year old car that is awsome. Ford can have success with the Taurus AGAIN if the comeback is done right and properly. Hey the return of the SHO would be the icing on the cake.

Peter Stern

January 15, 2007 12:42 PM

"...and then by turning the car into a rental donkey."

Rental Donkey. Now that is FUNNY... yet true!

And if the Taurus was a Rental Donkey, I suppose that would make the Crown Victoria a Taxicab Donkey and the Lincoln Town Car an Airport Limo Donkey.

Gordon

February 7, 2007 12:46 PM

Why doesn't Ford stick with the alpha-numeric monikers? They could have renamed the FIVE HUNDRED (good car, but totally invisible marketing effort) the Ford POS. POS? Piece of **** , which pretty well sums up Ford management's contemptuous attitude towards it's customers.

don

February 10, 2007 11:43 PM

If Taurus is such an iconic name for FoMoCo, then it should not just slapped the name into a hoo-hum product which has been sitting in inventory for more than 2 years.

At any rate, the Taurus name at the end of the original lineage years did not have much brand equity as compared to the Camry and Accord.

This is such a token effort by Ford given the huge turnaround challange that it has to make happen.

philip

April 14, 2007 5:33 PM

Ford these days is something akin to General motors in the 1980's when Roger Smith was CEO. RS was an old hand at GM but still an old fuddy-duddy way out of his league trying to run 5 divisions of cars. He personnally brought out the LOOK-ALIKE cars that were a source of endless ridicule. And his downsizing excercises were laughable. RS started GM on its downward slide that is only partly reversed today. One look at Ford products (and their names) today is proof positive of INCOMPETENCE, INEPT PRODUCT PLANNING and SHAMELESS STUPIDITY. Putting a knife into the heart of trusted and revered Ford products such as Thunderbird, Crown victoria, Taurus Continental, Grand Marquis, Zephyr and others is a crime worthy of the FIRING SQUAD for the 3 stooges who run Ford. The 500 and Montego and MKZ whatever are reminicent of the awful and un sellable cars of GM and Roger Smith.

john

July 23, 2007 10:58 PM

I think that ford should bring back the Taurus name. It such a name that is recognized as a car name. Also why not bring Thunderbird, Crown Victoria, & Ford GT you need these out there that know & want these names. Just like MUSTANG , DO NOT EVER QUIT THAT NAME YOU WOULD BE CRAZY. LISTEN TO EVERYONE OUT THERE KEEP THE NAMES PEOPLE KNOW , JUST IMPROVE ON WHAT YOU HAVE THANKS

john

July 23, 2007 11:01 PM

I think that ford should bring back the Taurus name. It such a name that is recognized as a car name. Also why not bring Thunderbird, Crown Victoria, & Ford GT you need these out there that know & want these names. Just like MUSTANG , DO NOT EVER QUIT THAT NAME YOU WOULD BE CRAZY. LISTEN TO EVERYONE OUT THERE KEEP THE NAMES PEOPLE KNOW , JUST IMPROVE ON WHAT YOU HAVE


THANKS

Paul Elzey

July 30, 2007 6:21 PM

Ford and GM have indeed lost the human element in there efforts to regain the auto market shares they once enjoyed. They, to my complete astonishment and disappointment, threw away the BRAND LOYALTY that they had built up throughout 2-3 decades. Why throw away the Nova or the Torino? I hear the name of a car today and usually can't even tell whose it is.
People buy autos, like them, and would re-buy again IF the name was still there. The Imports are on the top of the sales because their names are still the same. Their cars just keep updating and improving. The American car companies need to start acting and quit re-acting to trends set by the competitors. Oh, and start putting some engines in their products!

Phong Le

November 9, 2007 2:06 PM

Fixing U.S. auto industry...Easy!

If I were a VP at any of the Big Three, I would kindly ask each of my engineer to drive a new Honda Accord, a Camry, or a Maxima home in the weekend. Then on Monday coming back with an idea how to design a car with the following characteristics:

1) No more oil leaking after 2 or 3 years
2) Transmission that will be able to communicate with the driver
3) Low gas mileage, high horse power with small cubic inches (looks at Honda)
4) Engine smoothness and last forever (ever they've heard overhead cam?)
5) Headline not falling
6) No more cheap interior plastic (look at how Maxima they are using the plastic)
7) Suspensions are talking to the driver (Look at Honda. Don't even need any alignment for years) - Have they ever heard of double-wishbones?

Well, easy stuffs. Japanese have been doing it for years, no wonders they have taken over the auto market.

Wake up U.S. engineers, stop building any more low quality cars, high gas mileage, ugly looking cars then we will come back to visit your show rooms soon!

Post a comment

 

About

Want the straight scoop on the auto industry? Our man in Detroit David Welch, brings keen observations and provocative perspective on the auto business.

BW Mall - Sponsored Links

Buy a link now!