The sedan is a critical piece in the turnaround effort, but it's not clear the Taurus name is now worth anything after years of neglect.
It’s not often that a single product can determine the fate of a company, but that’s precisely the role the original Taurus sedan played for Ford, back in 1986. Now, an all-new version of the sedan is about to come to market, and while it’s not quite the make-it-or-break it product of the original, there’s little doubt that the sedan is a critical piece in the turnaround effort of a company that’s decided to forego the multi-billion-dollar bailouts propping up its cross-town rivals, General Motors and Chrysler Group.
The ’86 Taurus proved a surprise hit, showing that American automakers could take on their Asian rivals in one of the market’s toughest segments. But within a matter of years, Ford almost seemed to tire of that success, allowing the sedan to slip on the sales charts until Taurus was little more than an after-thought, with the vast bulk of production earmarked for daily rental fleets, and then abandoned all together.
The nameplate was revived by Ford’s new CEO, Alan Mulally, who sought to recapture the success of the original Taurus badge. With Ford the only one of the Big Three Detroit makers opting out of a federal bailout, analysts say the sedan will be critical in reversing Ford’s string of record financial losses when it hits market, this Summer.
“This is the most significant entry we have,” among the various models being launched for the 2010 model-year,” said Frank Davis, Ford’s executive director of product development. “It is our flagship.”
When Ford abandoned the Taurus nameplate, earlier in the decade, the automaker tried introducing a new badge to replace it, the Five Hundred. But in today’s crowded market, it can cost hundreds of millions of dollars to catch the attention of potential buyers. After Five Hundred’s lackluster success, Ford decided to revive the Taurus, counting on the fact that it was one of the country’s best-known brands. (more…)