Ford Taurus Laid to Rest – Dies of Neglect
The Ford Taurus ceases production during the week of October 23, 2006. Since the Taurus was launched on December 24, 1985 as a 1986 model year product over 7 million Tauruses have been sold. Taurus, over the years, is the second best selling Ford car after the Model T. What began as a bold move into contemporary automotive design was allowed to wither in the vine and eventually fade into a fleet-only product.
1986 Taurus Redefined the Mid-Size Car
The 1986 Taurus arguably rescued the Company following its early 1980s trauma and set a new direction for Mid-Size Sedans in the USA and world markets. Taurus quickly became a benchmark for competitive entries and even when competitors criticized its “jellybean” styling, they emulated it in one manner or another.
I was there when Ford used a Hollywood sound stage to launch the first generation Taurus. This “reveal” was the conclusion of a year-long string of teaser public relations leaks that helped guarantee that the public was ready for the Taurus and not surprised by its advanced new styling.
Best of All Tauruses – 1992 Through 1995
Where the 1986 Taurus was an aggressive change, Ford research concluded that the original concept was right on target and the second generation Taurus was what many considered a mild evolution of the original car. Keeping the basic concept the same, Ford tweaked the Taurus and the result was perhaps the best of all the Taurus line – the 1992 through 1995 Taurus.
Because the 2nd generation car was so evolutionary, the automotive media jumped all over it criticizing it for being too tame after originally redefining the Mid-Size Car. Ford management twitched at this criticism and vowed to break the mold again with the DN101 – the 1996 Taurus.
Monocle Taurus Broke the Mold But Missed the Mark
The DN101 Taurus was boldly different but it had two fatal flaws in the Mid-Size Car category. It had a smaller rear seat than its predecessor and a smaller trunk. In a category that depends on rental car and fleet sales in addition to personal use sales, the Taurus stumbled and Ford never had the wherewithal or commitment to fix its blunder. We call this car the “Monocle Taurus” because when viewed from the rear the backlite was almost round – like a monocle.
Ford tried again to fix the Taurus in 2000 and slightly again in 2004. While Taurus remained Ford’s best selling car, it became a tougher and tougher sell. Incentives were piled on the car to keep it moving. Ford became disenchanted with the Taurus and a 2004 major change was killed in favor of a mild tweak. Great brand equity was flushed down the drain.
In defense of the Taurus, it is still the rental car of choice at the Hertz lot. A Taurus with 10,000 miles on the ODO or 20,000 miles on it feels much more solid than a Toyota Camry in the same rental car fleet. Taurus will be missed. It is extremely unfortunate that Ford chose to close its excellent Atlanta Assembly Plant with the demise of the Taurus. Atlanta produced some of the highest quality Fords ever.