Ford Five Hundred:

Ford Taurus Has Not (Yet) Gained Traction

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Ford has not solved the equation of the Ford Taurus (nee Ford Five Hundred from 2005 through 2007). Launched in late 2004 as a 2005 model, the Ford Five Hundred lacked the head-turning style and powertrain selection of the Chrysler 300 introduced at about the same time. Where the 300 is a risky styling tour-de-force, the Five Hundred erred on the side of milquetoast conservatism. Here, it is evident that even the mature large car market rewards expressive stylign much more than styling that blends in.

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Five Hundred Was Basically a Good Car – Timing/Competition was Unfortunate
Not that the Five Hundred was a bad car. It wasn’t bad, it was just boring. In AutoPacific’s Ideal Vehicle Award research the Five Hundred (along its stablemate Mercury Montego [now the Mercury Sable]) scored near theh top of the industry because of its outstanding seating package, visibility, cargo room and ergonomics. While its powertrain did not set any records, the anemic 203HP 3.0L V6 was adequate for the gray-haired buyers selecting a Five Hundred or Montego.
Launch and Leave Marketing Did Five Hundred No Favors
Adding insult to injury, Ford’s marketing strategy left the Five Hundred high and dry after its introduction period. Launch and leave advertising for an all new car launched into a hotly contested market has proven to be the kiss of death. And for Five Hundred it practically was. Ford watched as Chrysler garnered kudos with its 300/Magnum/Charger while the Five Hundred/Montego/Freestyle struggled to keep Ford’s Chicago Assembly Plant working on two shifts.
Major Change After Three Years – Five Hundred Becomes Taurus
Resource constraints prevented Ford from rushing forward changes it knew were necessary. It was decided to adopt a major freshening after three years on the market. Five Hundred gets fresh front end styling adopting Ford’s three bar grille theme. The engine is now a 3.5L V6 getting 260HP mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission. The interior is upgraded and chassis is much more sporting. Oh, yeah, and the name has been changed from Five Hundred to Taurus. This decision was quickly reached by Alan Mulally when he concluded Taurus was too valuable a name to send to the scrap heap. (Frankly, it should have been Taurus 500 to bring the relationship closer together. Maybe the badges were too expensive).
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Could it Be Taurus is Now Great?
In fact, during a conversation with a crusty old journalist at a competitor’s press event, he claimed the best car he had driven for the 2008 season was the new Ford Taurus. Jaws dropped, but he would not back down. He claims the Taurus is right up there with the best.
Well, unfortunately, freshening the styling, upgrading the powertrain and chassis and throwing Ford’s not insubstantial marketing muscle at the Taurus (stressing Taurus 5-Star safety ratings) has not resulted in greatly improved sales. In fact, compared with September 2006 sales of the Five Hundred, Taurus sales for 2008 are down by about 40%. Of course, if you include a few hundred left over 2007 models the number approaches down 30% or so.
So, something drastic is happening. And drastic is NOT GOOD. To date, Ford’s product and marketing have not taken off. Taurus is a much better car than the Five Hundred of a few months ago. Maybe Ford has moved too late with too little in a marketplace that no longer has room for error?


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2007 Detroit Auto Show: Five Hundred Gets More Power and a New Look

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NOTE: Since this was written in January 2007, Ford has changed the name of the Five Hundred to Taurus. This resurrects the recently dropped moniker of Ford’s once-top-selling Premium Mid-Size Car and applies it to the freshened and upgraded Five Hundred. Now, Taurus 500 would have had a ring to it.
2008 Facelift Addresses Power and Style Criticisms
When Ford introduced the Five Hundred for the 2005 model year, its package was praised but its 203HP V6 and bland styling took a lot of heat, and sales were not as robust as Ford was hoping. The facelift revealed by Ford’s newest executive, Alan Mullaly, at the 2007 North American International Auto Show, on sale in summer 2007, addresses both issues.

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There is a far more impressive and substantial face to the new Five Hundred. The most notable change is Ford’s family three-bar grille, and perhaps the least important is the addition of side vents, some variation of which is popping up on nearly everything these days. There is a new sculpted hood and front fascia. Side-view mirrors are smaller, but offer improved visibility and reduced wind noise. The Limited adds more chrome, including on the side vents, door handles, and mirror caps. Oddly, the revised mirror does not add turn-signal indicators, a feature customers seem to appreciate and one that is becoming more and more common. In the rear, the taillamps and fascia are revised. Interior changes focused on a quieter ride, with a revised sound package. Ride is improved with revised shock towers, new dampers and springs front and rear, and a revised and retuned rear suspension.
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VehicleVoice#41 – Reviews of the Ford Five Hundred and the MazdaSpeed3

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There are very few things the 2007 MazdaSpeed3 and the 2006 Ford Five Hundred have in common, but here’s a comprehensive list. They’re both made by Ford. They both have four wheels. And they’re both up for review this week on VehicleVoice.

VehicleVoice contributor David Barrett starts things off with a look at Mazda’s brand new hot rod, the MazdaSpeed3, and finds out the operative word in the name is SPEED. There’s very little not to like about this racy little 5-door, from the breakthrough motor to it’s "Arrest Me" red paint job. But a word to the wise, all that horsepower can get you in torque trouble, and David can get you out with a few simple driving tips.

AutoPacific President George Peterson takes a look at the Ford Five Hundred this week. Decidedly different than the MazdaSpeed3, this comfortable, easy-driving sedan won the AutoPacific Ideal Vehicle Award and targets a very different audience than the Speed3 – an audience that just loves this car. Find our what George thinks in his review.

Show Runtime – 17:23

Show Rundown
00:27 David Barrett , VehicleVoice contributor reviews the 2007 MazdaSpeed3
07:12 George Peterson , President of AutoPacific reviews the 2006 Ford Five Hundred


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Car & Driver – 10Best Cars 2006

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Every year, Car & Driver, one of the high circulation car enthusiast magazines in the United States, publishes the results of its 10Best awards. The 2006 10Best Cars awards were released in the January 2006 issue of Car & Driver and you can find them on the C&D website at (http://www.caranddriver.com/article.asp?section_id=33&article_id=10354)
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Not having looked at the winners prior to writing this blog, VehicleVoice (http://www.vehiclevoice.com) staff conjectured about what types of cars Car & Driver would select.
We knew that, being a buff book, they’d select cars that appealed to the enthusiast, maybe throw one or two mundane winners into the mix, be heavy on import marques and generally favor smaller cars. Lets see how accurate we were?
BEST SPORTS SEDAN – Acura TSX
BEST SPORT COMPACT- Audi A3
BEST LUXURY SPORTS SEDAN – BMW 3-Series
BEST PERFORMANCE CAR – Chevrolet Corvette
BEST FULL SIZE SEDAN – Chrysler 300
BEST MUSCLE CAR – Ford Mustang GT
BEST FAMILY SEDAN – Honda Accord
BEST ROADSTER – Mazda MX-5 (Miata)
BEST SPORTS COUPE – Mazda RX-8
BEST LUXURY SPORTS CAR – Porsche Boxster
So, lets see, seven are import brands, 3 of the imports are from Germany and four are from Japan. Mazda picks up two wins with its sports cars.


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