Ford Taurus Lives as 2008 Five Hundred
Today at the Chicago Motor Show, Ford Motor Company announced that it would rename the slow selling Five Hundred sedan “Taurus” for the 2008 model year. At the same time Ford will rename the Mercury Montego sedan “Sable” and the Freestyle Crossover SUV the “Taurus X”.
The Mercury Montego was first in AutoPacific’s 2006 Ideal Vehicle Awards. The Ford Five Hundred was third with the Ford Crown Victoria sandwiched in between. AutoPacific’s IVA measures the practical aspects of a vehicle and those that score closest to what their buyers were expecting got the highest ratings. Based on AutoPacific’s research and reviewing Montego, Five Hundred (and Freestyle) at length, VehicleVoice staffers concluded that these vehicles have not sold very well because of their bland styling and anemic powertrains. With a 2008 facelift and changing the names to more familiar monikers maybe Ford can generate stronger sales for these good vehicles.
2008 Model Year Freshening Provides Opportunity to Rename Five Hundred
The Taurus name comes back concurrent with an appearance freshening on the Five Hundred. We have reported previously that the Five Hundred is getting a facelift for the 2008 model year and also getting Ford’s excellent 3.5L V6 engine with over 260HP. So, with the appearance and powertrain changes, the 2008 model year provides an opportunity for Ford to rename the Five Hundred as the Taurus.
Taurus X Naming Will Prove to be a Blunder
The Ford Freestyle is an excellent Crossover SUV that nobody knows about. Plagued with a crummy name, bland styling and anemic engine from launch, Freestyle’s excellent package, seating environment and ergonomics could not pull it out of the doldrums. Now with the market beginning to recognize the term “Crossover SUV”, Ford renames the Freestyle “Taurus X”. This will immediately identify the vehicle as a station wagon, not a Crossover SUV.
Ford Had Abandoned Name With Tremendous Equity
Since Alan Mulally arrived at Ford from Boeing, he has been quoted as aghast/surprised/perturbed that Ford would allow Taurus to die. Well, he got to Ford just too late to keep the Taurus from being killed, but maybe there is a way to save the name and the huge investment Ford had in the Taurus name over the years.
The Taurus and Sable had been relegated to fleet-only duty for the past year and Ford elected to drop the car rather than keep it competitive in the face of strong competition from Toyota, Honda, Nissan and now Chevrolet. At one time the Taurus was the best selling car in the USA – 1992 – 1996. The Ford Atlanta Assembly Plant had become Ford’s top quality plant. So even though there may still be tremendous equity in the name, Ford allowed the car itself to wither on the vine.
Five Hundred Named With Ford’s “F” Naming Strategy – Another Strategic Blunder
The Five Hundred name came at the time Ford management had decided to name all of its cars with nomenclature beginning with the letter “F” (hence Focus, Fusion, Freestyle, Five Hundred … uh, what about the Mustang and Thunderbird?). Five Hundred had been used as far back as 1957 when Ford’s range topper was the Fairlane 500. Later the 500 tag (always with numbers not letters) was found on the Galaxie 500. Admittedly, Ford’s use of Five Hundred was contrived at best and the change is welcomed.
Gimme “Monterey”, Not Sable
On the Mercury side, there is less rationale to change Montego to Sable. Sable was never a great seller and the name certainly does not have the oomph of Taurus. Frankly, Ford blew it when they named the ill-fated Monterey minivan. We contend that Monterey is a much stronger name than Montego or Sable. But that ship has sailed, and we weren’t asked to vote.