TEXT OF STORY
Steve Chiotakis: We’re gonna start seeing the new 2010 Ford Taurus showing up at dealers in the next few weeks. The original one helped turn the automaker around in the 1990’s. This time, Ford is taking a calculated risk and marketing the Taurus as its flagship, image-changing vehicle. Michigan Radio’s Tracy Samilton reports.
Tracy Samilton: When Ford unveiled the Taurus in 1986, there was nothing like it on the road. Its aerodynamic shape was unique for a mid-size family sedan. It was roomy, it was affordable, and it had thoughtful, unexpected features, like side visors.
Car and Driver editor Eddie Alterman says the Taurus hit that elusive sweet spot:
Eddie Alterman: It was incredibly good looking, it was built well and it was fun to drive.
The formula worked. Between 1992 and 1996, the Taurus was the best-selling car in the country, accounting for about 13 percent of Ford’s total sales.
Paul Eisenstein heads research firm DetroitBureau.Com:
Paul Eisenstein: It was the last time Detroit has overwhelmingly dominated the most important segment of the passenger car market.
So what happened? Eisenstein says lackluster redesigns took the car’s popularity for granted. By 2006, only rental car companies were buying the Taurus. Now, Ford is putting the Taurus name on what’s really a different car.
Mike Crowley is Ford’s head of marketing for cars and crossovers. He says the first thing to go was the jelly-bean shape.
Mike Crowley: We really needed to have a design that captured people’s imaginations and really changed their perceptions.
And on the inside, the car is loaded with high-tech options usually found only on luxury vehicles, like radar blind spot detection and voice-activated navigation.
Paul Eisenstein of DetroitBureau.com says this could be a risky transition for Ford. Consumers expecting something similar to the old Taurus could be confused, and this car is being targeted at men in their 40’s and 50’s. Even if it catches on, it won’t be selling 400,000 units a year.
Eisenstein: We’re talking perhaps 50 [thousand], 60 [thousand], if they’re lucky, 70,000 vehicles a year. So it’s a completely different type of product and it will have to be judged on a very different scale.
Still, some analysts think this sophisticated sedan could help spark an image makeover for both the nameplate and the company, and that’s exactly what Ford wants. By September, the Taurus lover, skeptic or newbie can get a look at the new model at their local dealership.
I’m Tracy Samilton for Marketplace.
Marketplace is on a mission.
We believe Main Street matters as much as Wall Street, economic news is made relevant and real through human stories, and a touch of humor helps enliven topics you might typically find…well, dull.
Through the signature style that only Marketplace can deliver, we’re on a mission to raise the economic intelligence of the country—but we don’t do it alone. We count on listeners and readers like you to keep this public service free and accessible to all. Will you become a partner in our mission today?