Ford Takes My Advice and Renames the Five Hundred "Taurus"

Posted by: David Kiley on February 6, 2007

Okay, maybe it wasn’t my idea exactly. The way I remember it…I said to Ford’s Mark Fields over a year ago that I thought it was nuts to dump the Taurus name, and why, for goodness sake, didn’t they call the Five Hundred the Taurus and rename the Taurus fleet car something else, like the Ford Ambassador.

The Taurus had reclaimable equity, I argued. Ford could have done the same thing with Fusion, a heckuva good car that is only known to about 30% of car buyers. It could have named the Fusion and “Taurus” and really hit the ground running with that car.

Then, last December, I posed this notion to CEO Alan Mulally, who took the bait right away, and said he wondered the same thing; that is, why Ford was frittering away a huge investment in the Taurus name. A week or so later, I posed the question to a Ford advertising exec who said that he had heard “stranger ideas” than renaming the Five Hundred “Taurus.”

I blogged on all this on January 4. Tomorrow, Feb. 7 Ford will announce the change at the Chicago Auto Show. So, where do I send my invoice?

Reader Comments

Brendan Moore

February 6, 2007 7:47 PM

Ford's own research (also backed up by external consumer research) shows that most people in the United States are not even aware of the existence of the Ford Five Hundred. I realize people wil say, "well, the Taurus is a damaged brand" because of the years of neglect foisted upon it by an uncaring parent. I agree, but hasten to add that the Taurus name is damaged if looked at from the status it once enjoyed - even in it's damaged state it is far superior to the Five Hundred brand.

Yes, it should have been Taurus from the start, and yes, it should have shown up with another 50 HP to make it competitive in the segment, instead of belatedly adding it now years later, but that didn't happen. Ford cannot change the mistakes of the past, only mitigate the negative effects of those mistakes as much as possible. I think it's a positive move for the car.

Additionally, people will say that the marketing required to reintroduce the brand will be expensive and maybe they should have just let both the Five Hundred and the Taurus nameplates die. But there is nothing to replace the Five Hundred in the Ford lineup anytime soon, and Ford was already spending a lot of marketing money on the "Ford Five Hundred" brand anyway, and getting very little for it. Even with no marketing and available only through fleet orders, the Taurus still outsold the Ford Five Hundred 2-1 in the last year of production. Whatever people in the industry think about the last iteration of the Taurus, the Taurus brand name still has a lot of very positive equity among consumers in the United States, so the results of spending that marketing money cannot be worse than they are now - only better.

Maybe the next-generation Taurus will be a contender in every way, but for right now, I think Ford is making the right move.

Brendan Moore - Autosavant.net

PHILLIP

February 12, 2007 11:09 PM

It is amazing that us regular people can see the intelligence in doing simple things while these executives are too busy wasting time and resources breaking something that was not broken to begin with. I think all of them are trying to justify their pathetic jobs by creating what they call new idealogy. Equity in a brand can be difficult to create in today's tough market place, but customer satisfaction must be established and maintained. Does everyone remember Saturn's situation years ago: Tops in Sales and Customer Satisfaction. Saturn even tried to model itself like Honda: No rebates were needed to sell their cars. Now they are trying to build the same thing again. When are these automakers going to realize you only fool the consumer for so long. The new Saturns have style without a doubt, but like most American cars their sales are strong initially then they fall. No quality standards have been established for Saturn whether initial or long term so take it from me (a person who sued Saturn for a certified lemon) quality out weighs quantity. If their cars are not nearly as reliable as their Japanese competitors over the long haul Saturn will fall out of orbit.

David Ray

February 23, 2007 1:05 PM

Mr. Kiley....You came up with that idea only a year ago? Some of us thought of it long before that, but we do not have this corny column to go off on and toot our own horns about it. No wonder why American car manufacturers keep digging themselves a deeper hole. If I kept writing about foreign junk cars being so much better than American made ones. Anytime you would like to compare my American manufacturers/made cars to the foreign junk....I'll be ready.

JW

February 23, 2007 10:05 PM

Brendon--Please stop foisting Mullaly myth--there is little marketing for the Five Hundred , which incidently, why there is no recognition for it. It is invisible, realtive to the rest of the Ford line-up. Take it from a Five Hundred owner who looks for it.

The Taurus outsold the Five Hundred in the last year of its production, maybe because of the 20-year run in the industry? The Five Hundred had what, half a year? Ya think that could be it?

The name change to Taurus is marketing by zombie intertia, nothing more.

Brad

March 1, 2007 4:17 AM

I just came home from the Cleveland Auto Show this evening where I saw the rebadged '08 Tauri nee Five Hundreds. It was news to me...and then I found this post just now. Ford is slowly starting to make some decent cars again...I guess it's not that they were making bad cars, just boring, bland cars. They screwed up by trying to rename longstanding car models under the "F" program. Windstar became Freestar (dumb), Taurus gave way to Five Hundred (at least it was a completely new model), Freestyle arrived (nice package, but weak name, especially its audible similarity to the more inane Freestar). The Focus is a strong model name in its own right, as is the new Fusion. Thankfully there seem to be no plans to change them further, but now Five Hundred becomes Taurus, Freestyle apparently becomes Taurus X (that's the badge I saw on one tonight), and who knows what Freestar will become...I think they plan to drop it completely in a year or two. Ford is just throwing all its brand identity out the window. Lincoln is suffering too. The Zephyr blew in for one year, and then died out and became MKZ. At least the naming over on the Mercury side of the house seems stable. No need to change the Monterey into a new Sable. "Sable" is a lousy name for a car.

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