Taurus, Sable Return to Ford Lineup

The Ford Taurus only recently ended its two-decade run in the Ford lineup – but this week in Chicago the Taurus nameplate is being revived.


Mark Fields, Ford's President of the Americas, confirmed at the Chicago auto show that the 2008 Ford Five Hundred unveiled at the Detroit auto show in January would instead go on sale as the 2008 Ford Taurus.


The Ford Freestyle will be renamed the Taurus X, Fields said. And the Mercury Montego sedan will be redubbed the Mercury Sable.


The switch is said to be the plan of Alan Mulally, who is said to be an advocate of the name. The Five Hundred was named under a company plan to use the letter “F” for all Ford passenger cars.


Until the late 1990s the Taurus was America ’s best-selling sedan. The Taurus was phased out of production late last year as Ford shuttered the Atlanta plant that formerly built the sedan and wagon. The Five Hundred and its twin, the Mercury Montego, are built alongside the Ford Freestyle crossover at a Chicago plant that had also built Tauruses into the current decade.


The Taurus nameplate returns alongside Ford’s smaller Fusion sedan. In its current iteration, the Five Hundred is selling less than initial projections from its 2004 launch. Back then Ford hoped to sell about 100,000 Five Hundreds each year, in front- or all-wheel-drive form. Last year, the Wall Street Journal reports, Ford sold 84,218 Five Hundreds.


A cheaper revival


“We’re getting out of the business of throwing away or letting great products die on the vine,” explained Mark Fields, Ford’s President of the Americas , following a speech kicking off the 2007 Chicago Auto Show. The executive admitted Ford has allowed many great brand names to vanish over the years – something TheCarConnection’s award-winning columnist, Jerry Flint, tackled in his “Ford’s Graveyard Fills Up” column last year.


There’s an economic reason to stick with nameplates like Taurus and Sable, said Fields, noting that Taurus remains the third most widely recognized brand name at Ford, surpassed only by the F-Series and Mustang. On the other hand, “Only four in ten (potential customers) are aware there’s a car called the Ford Five Hundred.” It’s possible to increase awareness of the new model, but “it would take millions of advertising dollars and years,” echoed Ford’s marketing chief, Cisco Codina.


According to various analysts, it can take $80 million or more to establish a new brand, such as the Five Hundred, in the public eye, and that’s becoming even more difficult as the number of nameplates continues to expand. According to Ford research, another 50 names will be added to the list of models sold in the U.S. by decade’s end, or about 350 overall.


The timing of the Taurus’s revival coincides with a significant remake of the Five Hundred and its Mercury counterpart, the Montego. As the Taurus, the sedan will be moderately restyled, with the highlight being the triple-chrome-bar nose first introduced on the smaller Fusion four-door. Both the revived Taurus and Sable will be offered in ’08 in either front- or all-wheel-drive configurations. They’ll feature a number of key safety systems, including stability control and the “safety canopy” head restraint airbags. Ford’s new Sync, an in-car infotainment system, developed with Microsoft, will also be standard.


Meanwhile, the Taurus badge will be bolted to the back of a second product line, as the Freestyle crossover will be re-dubbed Taurus X. Like the sedan, the renamed crossover will get an improved powertrain for 2008, a 3.5-liter V-6 making 260 hp, a 30-percent increase over the ’07 model. Mated to a standard six-speed transmission, the crossover’s 0-60 mph times will reportedly improve by a third, said Codina, during a preview at the Chicago show.


While the Taurus and Sable may be well-known nameplates, that’s not all good, Codina acknowledged during a discussion with TheCarConnection.com. In recent years, the Taurus, in particular, was known as little more than the product Ford dumped into daily rental fleets. “There’s a perception gap we have to clear up,” acknowledged the Cuban-born executive, but he insisted that with the new design and features, Ford is confident “we can compete…with the imports” that dominate the segment, such as Toyota ’s Camry and Avalon models.

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Ford: Euro Cars Could Sell Here by Jim Burt (2/5/2007)
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2008 Ford Five Hundred Preview by Marty Padgett (1/7/2007)
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