Friday, February 09, 2007

Bull Headed: The Taurus Returns

Ford Motor Company is in dire straits. Losing more money per day than many of us make in a lifetime. Like many companies that find themselves in this situation, they got complacent. Old product that did not keep up with the changing market. Too much reliance on big cars, trucks, SUVs etc, that became a liability when gas prices soar. Now I drive a gas guzzler deluxe, but she is paid for. Some of these folks decided to abandon their $3-400/mo car payments and $300/mo gasoline bills. I can run the Queen Mary on a tank of gas for 3-4 weeks if I do not go out of town. It was the people above who led the way to more fuel efficient cars.

Ford didn't have what they wanted.

Europe got a new small Focus, US kept the old one, a good enough car but falling behind Toyota and such. Resurgent Cadillac knocked Lincoln to taxi service. The Lincoln LS, once called America's best sedan, was ran over by the phenomenal Chrysler 300. Relying on trucks, Ford is seeing the Japanese charging through the full size truck market.

Then there was the Taurus.

Once the most popular make in the US, selling 1/2 million a year, and a breakthrough in automobile design the like of which had not be seen in years, the Taurus was left to flounder. Thus, as Packard did to Cadillac in the 50's, Ford handed the market over to the Camry on a gold platter. The Taurus became junk. It got long in the tooth, never changing, never improving, keeping the same old looks and technology. The rental car market and fleets loved it. By the late 90's if you had a Taurus it was a company car. Just like the Lincoln Town Car will be soon, you had to be fleet buyer to buy a Taurus in its last year of production.

Now Ford is hopefully not making another blunder by renaming its replacement, the slow selling 500, Taurus for 2008. Unfortunately, too many people think of this once dramatic, style setting nameplate as a rental car. The Mercury Montego will be renamed Sable, Mercury's long time Taurus companion.

US automakers are not building cars that are right for the market. And if they do they are compromised, they get close, but no cigar. In their defense, the market changes from hour to hour sometimes, but somehow Toyota and Honda and the like seem to be able to adjust.

I wish the best for Ford. I like their cars, especially the good ones they built in the 80's. I just don't think renaming a car with a tarnished nameplate is going to do the trick.

I'd have chosen the "Fairlane" or "Galaxie".

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