(first posted 2/16/2013) Like that of the Beatles, the story of the Ford Taurus has been told so many times that pretty much everyone knows about it on some intrinsic level. Your version may differ from mine, but fundamentally it goes like this: The 1986 sedan was revolutionary and rocked the American auto market. Then, some time during the Clinton administration, Ford went a little crazy in their design and blew it . After the turn of the century, the car was more or less a joke until it was killed off in 2006. So what else is there left to say?
As a matter of fact, quite a bit. Mary Walton’s Car briefly discusses the 2000 redesign, which was already being planned even as the first 1996 model-year Taurii were arriving at dealerships. Nothing earth-shattering to report; the team responsible for the Taurus of the 21st century planned for a heavy refresh using lots of carryover parts as well as keeping the same two V6 engines. Was it a realization that the DN101 platform had staying power? Or had Ford really given up on the mid-size market that early? In either case, I’m guessing the suits in Dearborn were hedging their bets on both.
There is one obvious thing that the team realized: The styling had to be changed. The bull retained its roundness, but it became more subdued. Jack Telnack’s stance against peanut-shaped headlamps went by the wayside, and the new beak was all the better for it. The new design was much smoother and more cohesive than its predecessor.
Since the D186 platform was basically a reworked DN101 chassis, Ford threw some of its money toward developing features that would be unique to the mid-size market, most notably power-adjustable pedals, a world-exclusive at the time. Features like multi-stage airbags and an inner trunk release were also standard on the bull for model year 2000.
Another feature carried over from the previous generation was the keyless entry strip. It’s a nice little touch (even though we’ve never used it). Still, I’m sure it’s appreciated by folks who like to leave stuff in their cars when they go for a hike or to the gym. Oddly enough, its something that competitors haven’t replicated in their vehicles to this day.
Inside, the interior retained the combined audio/climate center stack (or “Instrument Control Panel”) pioneered by the third-gen model. It’s a pain in the ass for people who want to upgrade the audio, but you can’t really argue with its layout. All the buttons are placed logically, with those most used set closest to the driver. Those buttons are also large enough to press without diverting your eyes from the road. Cruise control buttons located on the steering wheel instead of a stalk behind it make this a very easy vehicle to get used to. And just to answer your question, that steering wheel cover is just as awful as it looks.
Another intuitive interior design feature is the window and door lock switches. Their tactile layout is useful without being alienating; they can be operated without explanation. The three releases you see pictured (trunk, hood, and emergency brake) work similarly.
So, am I trying to sell you our CC subject? Absolutely not. Don’t get me wrong: The Taurus’s cost of ownership has been as satisfying as typing “Christina Hendricks” into a Google Image search; that is, you’ll never be disappointed.
One can point out many faults that doomed the Taurus, but for this generation it was cost-cutting. Ford didn’t even feel like forking over the money for a blue oval on the alloy wheels! The 2004 refresh also brought a leather interior; it might have been comfortable, but the material was as authentic as a Twinkie.
And the bean counters didn’t stop there. The key fob on the left is for my CC, the right one is for the bull. Although it once had pictures of what those buttons did, now you just have to know from memory or experimentation. I can say with confidence that we must have woken up the neighbors several times over the years by mistakenly pressing the panic button late at night, but I don’t think we’re entirely to blame.
So where does all this leave us? In terms of styling, over ten years later the fourth generation has held up reasonably well. Its driving characteristics have done likewise, and it’s certainly more confidence-inspiring than the previous CC I wrote about. Nevertheless, it probably doesn’t compare well to its contemporary competition. Why do I say that? Because my research indicates that Ford deleted the rear sway bar after the 2003 model year–a big mistake, as its body roll is significantly more pronounced than that of my Sable. But both the engine and transmission are smoother, and at 153 hp and 185 ft/lbs of torque at 3,950 RPM, it’s a bit quicker than its four-cylinder competition.
I like this picture because it looks like the guy upstairs is ushering the Taurus into that Driveway-in-the-Sky–and by late 2006, that essentially was the reality. Ford really took a bipolar approach to this car: There was an effort to keep it competitive, as evidenced by its unique features (I didn’t even mention the flip/fold center console!), but there were no real advancements after the 2000 model year. This car was definitely a sinking ship that was seven years in the making.
How can we justify what Ford did to the venerable Taurus name? Well, they had blown a couple of billion dollars on the disaster that was the Ford Contour/Mercury Mystique, and were most likely going through quite a bit of cash developing the Escape and Explorer. The Focus couldn’t have been cheap to develop either. There was also an impending 2003 F-150 redesign, and I’m guessing that the Ford Five Hundred and Freestyle were also being worked on in the early 2000s.
But the real Taurus killer was not the Camry or Accord, but the 2003 Mazda 6. This is all speculation, but when Ford saw the potential for making a new mid-size out of their corporate partner’s platform, they must have immediately closed the book on the D186. There are a few interesting parallels between the development of the Fusion and the fourth-generation Taurus, specifically the use of carryover engines. But the modern transmissions were class-competitive at the least, and it was an attractive vehicle with good driving dynamics. Enough time has passed to show us that it was the right move at the time.
Still, I have to lament the loss of mid-size Taurus for several reasons. It was (I believe) the last mid-size Ford to offer a front bench seat. There was a wagon version, and all variants were built right here in America. To be fair, the current Focus is being built in Michigan; ironically, the Flat Rock, MI plant that built the Mazda 6 is now being retooled to produce the new Ford Fusion. So I guess it isn’t all bad, and it is nice to see Ford back in the mid-size game. Still, I’ll always think of the fourth-generation Taurus as a tragedy of sorts, especially in light of the success of previous generations. But at least the nameplate is still around, which is something you can’t say about the Sable–and that’s a fact.
I see a lot of Ford Mondeo DNA in this.
If you think this has a lot of Mondeo DNA, then check out the Ford Contour!
I see even more in the Contour.
Because the Contour WAS based on the Mk1 Mondeo. Pretty much shared everything from the rear doors forward.
These things fill the same place that the Dart/Valiant/Aspen/Volare did during the 80s — reliable second-, third-, fourth-, and even fifth-hand transportation. There’s nothing wrong with that!
I see it too, kind of like a modern-day Granada. Being the epitome of uncool no one WANTS a Taurus but it will serve it’s purpose reliably and indefinitely.
Great rental car. Roomy, comfy, pleasant, and easy to live with. Who can argue with that?
Question: why cover up the license plates? I still know of no way anyone other than a cop could find out one’s personal info from it….just curious.
Good question. The featured CC is none other than my dad’s, and I didn’t even let him know that I was doing this. Same with the Camry. I have to cover up my own CC because my dealership doesn’t want their name leaked on here. A bit strange, since you can easily look me up on LinkedIn and see where I’m employed.
School district still has a fleet of the “last of the Tauri.” Solid, dependable, the one I was regularly given still returned solid 25 mpg while I was running at 85 mph on the interstates. I have a soft spot for these as unpretentious family transportation.
Oh and in the magazine comparos of the day they almost always finished ahead of their W-body competition.
Pretty sure the Intrigue finished ahead of the Taurus the 2 times they were in a Car & Driver comparo together. The first time the Intrigue actually finished ahead of the Camry in the comparo too.
I liked these Taurus/Sable cars a lot. Overall, good ho-hum affordable transportation. Smooth ride, decent mechanicals and fuel economy- in the shop we performed less repairs than their GM counterparts.
Fleet queen extraordinaire.
And, in a large sense, this is rather unfortunate.
I owned an ’01 Taurus for about 7 years. It would return anywhere from 12 to 20 mpg; one tank hit 24 and I thought I had won the lottery. It would take fits of giving a melodious symphony of spark knock interspersed with running like a scalded monkey or making barely enough power to pull itself. At 57,000 miles the oil light would get to flashing at engine speeds of less than 1000 rpm – it had excessive crankshaft bearing clearance. Soon thereafter the brakes would take fits of not wanting to work well; despite flushing the brake system and all pads and shoes being new, it was unnerving. This is why we sold it when we did.
That said, I have driven dozens of other Taurii – all fleet vehicles. Crummy fuel economy and transmissions obliterating themselves at 100k was not uncommon.
Yet, despite all this, I always thought these were very comfortable and great driving cars. Ford simply squandered a good thing.
One last thing…my 91 year old grandmother has a ’00 Taurus with 30,000 miles on it. She no longer drives and offered me first option on the car. I simply could not get excited about it.
Then sell it to Mr. Snitkoff if nobody wants it.
Last year I inhered a 2003 with the 3.0L engine when my mother passed away. After researching the fuel economy and expected longevity with 70k on the clock I sold it.
Weird. This particular CC has 164,000 miles on the clock and its been problem free, minus two alternators and batteries.
I work with a guy who has an ’01 with 225,000 and it’s still running as good as it always did.
You know how every rose has its thorn? The majority of the vehicles I have owned had a blue oval on them, but the Taurus has been the least endearing of the group. These are far from being bad cars – I’ve driven many of them and there were some really terrific ones in the bunch – but the one I owned was an absolute turd.
12 MPG? Was it E85? Most people are AVERAGING 22-24.
No, it was the regular 3.0 Vulcan V6. The 12 mpg was a low point, but the car was a fuel pig. My Crown Victoria, of which my ownership overlapped with the Taurus by four years, got about the same fuel mileage 80% of the time.
If this car broke 20 mpg, it was a red letter day at the Shafer house.
I trash GM pretty regularly, but at least all the cockroach A, J, H and W cars hold up pretty well as reliable beaters. Not these.
The most disposable generation of the ultimate disposable car. Typical Ford: Somewhat impressive initial quality undermined by lowest-bidder components with no durability. That interior looked pretty decent next to, say, a Buick Regal in 2000, but it’s worn badly and looks like crap.
This is Ford not trying very hard, but the results are not much better when Ford does try. The ’86 Taurus, while class-leading at the time, was ultimately just as junky, and the failed Contour with its self-distructing wiring was even worse. I realize this puts me in distinct minority on the web, but I have zero faith in all the fancy new Fords.
My family and friends have owned Chevrolet Cavaliers from the late 1990s, along with Buick Park Avenues from the 1999 and 2000 model years. They do not hold up well beyond 90,000 miles – regular repair bills of $700-1,500 are quite common after that point. Their interiors don’t hold up all that well, either. And then there is the 2004 Bravada owned by my parents that recently needed a $3,000 engine repair at 100,000 miles to keep it running.
Of course who can forget the Ford 500 that was supposed to replace the Ford as the volume full size sedan (since by then the Crown was a niche vehicle). Which of course proved unpopular then they put the Taurus label back on it and sales picked up again.
The 86-95 Taurus was ubiqitous but its aero but angular styling and the SHO made it an interesting car. The 96 redesign made took away the personal appreciate and it became more of a fleet/family hauler/utility car. Even the SHO got lost in the mix even though by the late 1990s it had an unusual V8 that was next to impossible to find parts and work on.
I remember when the first SHOs came out they only had 5 speeds which was a novel concept at the time for a 4 door sedan. The Yamaha V6 was novel, but like the V8 mentioned above, became a bear to service later in life. To this day, any kind of issue with the motor renders the SHO worthless even if it only has a modest collector potential right now.
From a service standpoint, the 3.0 and 3.8 V6s were a charm and the car was generally fairly reliable and easy to service, except for a/c problems. Getting into the dash in these cars is a bear.
The V8 SHOs love to spin the cam sprockets right off the shafts, they are only press-fit. When that happens, crunch go the valves.
There used to be an aftermarket cottage industry dedicated to pinning and/or welding them onto the camshafts.
And even when they still relatively new but off warranty, Ford basically told victims of this to pound sand.
I am convinced that Ford, by bringing tha Taurus name back on their dull full sizer made a colossal mistake — the Fusion (a rather horrible car name) IS the modern Taurus.
People have had a long history of disliking Ford names, starting with Probe and continuing on with the likes of Flex, Freestyle and Fusion.
Quite honestly I always thought Toreass was an equally crappy name. If they were going to name a car after a bull, astrological or not, name it one that actually sounds good. Good thing the Mustang wasn’t released in 1986, they’d have called it Brumby.
To add to that, I think Ford has had an irritating habit, going over the course of the past 50 years, of giving GREAT names to cars for a few years **cough**Galaxie**cough**, replacing them with less and less good names **cough**LTD**cough** and sticking with the WORSE one for 20+ years **cough**Crown Victoria**cough**… I really can’t think of a good name Ford has come with since the late 60s.
Crown Victoria was actually a recycled name from the 1950s. That was the pre-Fairlane premium…up until then, you had Ford Tudors (guess what they were!) and Fordors (yup).
Ford under Lido took up on GM’s marketing plan of Name Inflation…the Custom ceased to be the top-line model, and with the Galaxie and LTD dropped on top of it, it went to the bottom and sank into the mire of discontinuance. With time, the Galaxie went away, too…and finally the non-Crown-Vic LTD.
The whole plan had changed by that time, with actual different car lines instead of trim levels. The standard full-size car had become only on of many niche markets and a shrinking one. So, and after Lido’s departure, the Crown Victoria remained up until police and cabbies were its only customers.
I think the unfortunate outcome of the name inflation game is that the roulette wheel ended where it did. Crown Victoria is quite possibly the most ostentatious car name affixed this side of the Atlantic. It’s one of the top 3 things that keep me from loving the Panther as the name Grand Marquis isn’t much better.
I forgot about the Fairlane Crown Victoria. Good call!
The Fusion was originally going to be named “Futura.” Like “Five Hundred,” “Futura” was a common Ford trim level (Falcon and Fairmont); I thought that was kind of a cool idea, nevermind that those names fit in with Ford’s silly alliteration scheme.
Unfortunately, Ford had let the trademark lapse and Pep Boys had since started marketing a line of tires called Futura. Ford sued and lost.
Instead, they came up with the stupid Fusion nameplate. Even worse than “Focus.” I’m not a big fan of resurrecting old nameplates unless they have major market recognition and/or still sound current, but Ford has dozens of names that would have been better than this. I.e., Fairlane is too dowdy, but Falcon, maybe? Falcon? Maverick?
Fortunately, General Motor’s naming follies have been far worse than Ford’s. I’m not sure what’s worse, “Cobalt” or “Cruze,” but “Aveo” and “Sonic” make both pale in comparison. “LaCrosse,” which is slang for masturbation in Quebec might be worst name ever; That car should be an Electra or Invicta, two names that still work very well.
I agree. One could argue that the biggest difference between Toyota and the Detroit 3 is that Toyota basically picked a name and stuck with it. Same with Honda. Civic, Corolla, Camry, Accord. Year after year, through thick and thin, you always know what you were getting, unlike with the US car companies who rename a platform every 5-15 years.
Ford had a sure fire winner in the early Tauruses. Why did they mess with the formula? A model that successful is not the right choice for experimentation, especially one as weird and unusual as the “everything rounded” Tauruses. Why the sudden attraction to circles? Then to use the already tarnished name for an altogether different vehicle in a different segment, even worse, a slightly premium one, and the name has nothing premium attached to it at all! No wonder the vehicle currently carrying that name was an utter failure.
According to the accounts of Ford I’ve read, and there have been a lot of them out there…the Ford people believed the original Taurus did well, at least partly because they pushed the envelope – stepped out of formulae; took “risks.” Which of course they did do.
The challenge with the Taurus remake was, to push the limits FURTHER – take MORE risks, instead of doing a rehash a la the Datsun Z-cars.
The right approach; but the ovoid format lacked inspiration. That’s why it’s called “risk” – it doesn’t always work, just ask Dick Teague with his Pacer and Matador.
This is exactly right. Its why I continue to recommend Mary Walton’s “Car” to anyone remotely interested in the auto industry.
Don’t forget: Eric Taub, “The Making of the Car that Saved Ford”.
My view is that they messed with Taurus for the same reason they messed with everything else. They did the same thing with the Club Wagon pre and post 1996. Ditto with Windstar – the early ones were quite nice inside, while those after around 99 or 2000 were dreadful inside. Cost cutting was in evidence all up and down the FoMoCo lineup in the late 90s and early 2000s.
The 86-95 Taurus was a big hit especially the pre 92 models. They were new fresh angular very sharp and quite a departure to drive than what Ford was selling before. Part of why it was so successful was that there really wasn’t a direct replacement – the midsize models were a mishmash of various choices baby LTD, Fairmonts, etc that were not a cohesive product line. The 96 redesign was a disaster in that the crisp angular sedan that was so successful became a giant blob. No one wanted to have one of those cars so they became popular with fleets rentals and buyers who just needed good basic roomy 4 door transportation. They still sold well because there was a market for them but they no longer had any personal value to anyone.
Considering the number of cars sold over it’s lifespan and the average number of miles driven per car over the car’s life, the Taurus was an extraordinarily reliable car and fairly easy to fix from a service standpoint. You will always hear about lemons as you would with any car, but when you work it out on paper the service life of the car has only been exceeded by the Crowns.
Tauruses are easily maligned because at least with the later models they evoked no personal passion from drivers. No one decorated or modified a Taurus, there is no Taurus Enthusiasts Club that I know of, so people love to beat up on them. Which is generally the case with any car whose primary market is more utility than form.
This is absolutely true. These cars are so ubiquitous that you don’t notice them as individual objects. People get bored seeing them and don’t appreciate the shape anymore. To me they still look very well proportioned. And the basic egg shape is rather aerodynamic.
I am actually considering a 4th Gen Taurus or Sable to replace the 03 Windstar. Since no one loves them they represent excellent value on the market. I see “sweet spot” potential.
Quick note re: the entry keypad on the door handle:
Nissan also experimented with this. My mother’s ’86 Maxima had a very similar system.
Ford stuck with that keypad option on all their makes for, what, 20 years? Heck, for all I know they still offer it.
There must be a good reason why nobody else got on that bandwagon, at least for the long term.
It is one of those little Ford touches that I am glad is still around. You can’t lock your keys in your car, and you can also lock your running car to warm it up without needing a second key. Also, when you are in the driveway without a key and need to access the car or the trunk. Frankly, I am surprised that this has never been lost to the accountants. But I’m glad it’s still there.
And you can let your kids go into the car without giving them the key. I like that feature too. It is actually a little touch that distinguishes Ford from other makes.
No one else got on the band wagon because they don’t want to pay the licensing fee. Nissan got it due to the collaboration that produced the Villager/Quest.
Yes they still offer it on most of their cars because those of us that have used it demand it. When remote entry became big Ford dropped it for one year, 1998, some customers were furious so they quickly brought it back.
Nissan’s use of the keypad predates the Quest by seven years; They stopped bothering with it not long after the Quest debuted.
Most other manufacturers never bothered because it was a silly gimmick not worth R&D, let alone the licensing fee, if there was one. It’s even more ridiculous now in the age of RFID. Somehow I survived without any form of keyless entry until a couple of years ago, and even then I’ve encountered a situation where I need to get in my car, the doors are locked and the keys/remote aren’t in my pocket maybe…twice a year?
I wouldn’t use the demands of Ford loyalists as sound business case for anything. As easy as it is to rag on GM for fleet Impalas, etc, Ford is the one true fleet king. Crown Vic, Ranger, Econoline, Taurus…you couldn’t give those vehicles away if it wasn’t for cheap fleet managers, sweetheart incentives and rabid fanboys.
No it does not predate the Ford partnership. Yes it does predate the introduction of the Villager/Quest but if you get inside of a Nissan with the keyless entry you’ll find it is powered by a Ford part with Ford part numbers and using Ford connectors.
What did Ford get out of the deal, string and pulley window mechanisms, they one common failure point on the aero Panthers.
Fact does remain that Ford did drop it for 1998 and brought it back because of demand for it an continues with it to this day because of the customers they angered in 1998.
The 1985 FWD Buick Electra/Park Avenue was available with these as well, atop the door sill just below the window. I don’t know for how long they were available but they were gone by the ’91 redesign.
Nissan’s implementation was unique in that the front passenger door got a keypad as well as the driver
To ad some context by the late 90s the SUV boom was in full effect. Fuel hovered around $2/gal.
Ford had 5-10X per unit gross margin selling Explorers and Expeditions. The Ranger/Explorer platform might have been the most profitable platform in the history of Ford; at least until you deduct the payouts from the Faulty Firestone rollover Fiasco.
The dreadnaught-class Excursion and corvette-class Escape were just around the corner.
Stage-A Ford showroom circa 2008
Characters, a grumpy old man and a salesman.
GOM-I wanna see one of them 500s I’ve been hearing so much about!
SM -Well we don’t make it anymore.
GOM- Couldn’t a been any GD good then!
SM-Well, we call it the Taurus now.
GOM-Daughter-in-Law had a GD Taurus, transmission blew on ’em
in the middle o’ winter one night, grandkids almost froze to death, see ya!
I rented a blurple one (?) and drove it all over Massachusetts and Vermont in 20006. The fuel economy wasn’t bad, it felt comfortable and there were no surprises about its performance or handling. Simply put, it was pleasant for a week and it was not mine. Two wins.
My current work car is a 2003 Taurus which recently replaced a 2000 Lumina which had 146000 when it got sent to auction. The Lumina constitently got 21 to 23 mpg in mixed driving.The Taurus seems to be having problems getting to 20. I get the oldest car in the University’s fleet. Though the Taurus handles a little better than the Lumina, the Lumina got better mpg, and had a better ride. Last week the Taurus had to get serviced and I got an 2008 Impala for several days. The Impala was much, much more comfortable seemed to get better MPG’s and was quicker. I believe they normally return 30-33 HWY by the recruiters that use them. My Taurus has 106,000 miles on it and the Impala which is 5 years newer already has 92000 miles so evidently the folks that check the cars out prefer the Impala’s also. One thing about the Taurus is it does not have a remote control so I have to use a key to unlock it, unfortunately it does not have a key cylinder on the passenger side which is infuriating!
My Dad had an 86 Taurus 4 banger, it was the worst car ever owned in our family beating out an 80 Citation and a 76 Rabbit for that distinction.
Almost everybody knew to stay away from the 4 cyl versions. I knew someone who bought one against my advice, and one with no AC yet! Was a lemon (they all are) and couldn’t figure out why it had zero resale after only 2.5 years.
Only thing worse would be an MT5, which YOU would have to pay THEM to take.
Sounds like a lot of personal opinions. I had a new 86 MT-5 for only 4 years and with the exception of a blown head gasket, because the fan wasn’t kicking in. Fine after that. No serious damage. I sold it with about 50K miles on the clock and bought a new 90 Mustang 5.0 LX convertible.
Great gas mileage, SLOW but still fun to drive with the manual trans. The MTX was a tough sell with a 4 banger, even on the SHO. Even then midsized sedans with manuals were rare. The Accord was smaller. The SHO sales were better after the automatic became available. I had a used 2nd gen SHO MTX and I loved it. That engine was bullet proof.
Do not know what possessed Dad to buy that car. He would usually only consider a 4 for something like a Rabbit or Horizon. Anyway the Taurus got replaced by an 89 Pontiac 6000 with a 3.1 V6 (They loved the 6000) after using their 84 Horizon for the Highway car for a couple of years after the Taurus crapped out one time to often. The Taurus was the only Ford product he ever owned.
I like my MT-5!
We only got the ugly hybrid with Sable front it failed horribly in the market place Ford touted it as the Falcon replacement and hailed it as the US best selling car. Everyone wondered at the time why anyone would have one as a gift, but thanks to CC I can see why it was so popular in the US most of the rest of what was on the US market at the time incredibly is worse. Now we are told that under Alan Mulally’s one Ford policy we are to lose the Falcon and get some POS with FWD no V8 engine or just stick with the Mondeo which at least comes with a good performing diesel.
That’s why I think Mulally is a long-term loser for Ford.
He did a lot right to brace Ford for the crisis and to control losses, even pre-recession. Great. His feel for product, however, seems entirely absent…he came from the world of INDUSTRIAL GOODS. The number of customers for Boeing’s products were, maybe a dozen. And all of them were driven by cost-benefit analyses of Boeing versus other products and suppliers.
The world of automobiles is one of utility…AND FASHION. And of drastically-different expectations and requirements in various corners of the world. What America wants…is illegal in Japan. And is useless in Africa. And is unsaleable in places like Australia and New Zealand.
The brands under the Ford umbrella, helped clarify the focus, as well as in some cases, show were that company/division had been. Nobody, for example, bought a Jaguar for economy. They bought for the social status and the promise of cost-no-object driving pleasure. That Ford owned it only reassured the buyer that people who knew how to make reliable parts and cars, now directed the operation.
No matter how well engineered, no Jaguar-type car is going to sell as a Ford.
Likewise your tale of the Ford Falcon: A car obsolete in the States, is not only contemporary but what’s expected where you’re at. Given Big Al’s plans…someone’s not going to get what they want. And since the government doesn’t allow us old-style RWD V8s as a mainstay anymore…it’ll be the Pacific Rim market that gets ignored.
Someone else will fill the need. I guarantee it.
“That’s why I think Mulally is a long-term loser for Ford.”
I couldn’t disagree MORE. 100%
“The success he showed in the face of incredible difficulty was just extraordinary,” said James Turley, chairman and CEO, Ernst & Young. “The foresight he showed throughout the process, the courage he showed in making some tough decisions on popular brands, the global mindset he showed, and above all, the statesmanship he showed when two major competitors were on the public dole shows he was thinking for the good of the country as well as his company and industry.”
I gave him credit for smart business moves.
He also benefited from the PR gained when he and Ford eschewed public monies or bailouts.
That will only last so long, however. I also gave my problems with the “One Ford” approach. We won’t settle it here; good PR has a shelf life and clever finances only support product; they don’t replace it.
“Given Big Al’s plans…someone’s not going to get what they want. And since the government doesn’t allow us old-style RWD V8s as a mainstay anymore…..”
It’s not anyone’s “plan” to get rid of RWD V8 cars or the Gov. allowing it. With $4-$5 gas ($8 petro in Europe?) who can afford MPGs in the city teens? Midsize cars like the Accord etc. even V6s may be a thing of the past, it already is in the Fusion and a few other.
It’s called CONSUMER DEMAND. And the majority of demand is for FWD I4s. That is the mainstay. While RWD Pintos, Vegas and 510s were the norm in 1972, they are now an anachronism. RWD is now niche territory for Luxury, Sports Cars and trucks.
It’s called Corporate Average Fuel Economy requirements – and it’s a law, not a market survey result.
I know about CAFE, but honestly the market is ahead of that curve. Sure some people don’t care and want a 460 V8 in a Monster truck. There just isn’t a significant market for it. Even now if gas dropped to $3 people would go to CUVs with 4s or 6s than SUVs with V8s.
BTW it’s an AVERAGE. Ford could make a few thousand if they wanted to. It wouldn’t affect the corporate average. The Cadillac Escalade EXT gets 13/18 mpgs. It doesn’t affect GM’s corporate total significantly. Some companies live with it and pay fines, and/or a gas guzzler tax.
Hey, don’t get me wrong I love RWD V8s, my last several cars: 99 Miata, 05 Mustang GT, 72 Montego, 96 Lincoln Mark VIII, 69 Cougar……..I have to go waaay back to 1990 for a FWD/4 when I had a Dodge ES600 convertible (briefly)…..not counting the FWD 95 SHO with a V6/stick.
We have $10.00 gas its been an amazing incentive to those who build economical cars to venture into NZs tiny car market, the sales of big cars is drying up unless they sip fuel some of the time, Those with plenty of coin can drive big cars Camaros and Dodge Challengers are about but in lesser numbers than Prius & european diesels. Big US pickups are getting more common though mostly the diesel flavour, youd be astounded at what Kiwis will drive, But high gas prices are always there to help you choose your ride.
Amen to CAFE. It has ruined the traditional American Car more than all the Deadly Sins. Remember CAFE has different catagories for trucks and hence the SUV explosion in sales. Alot of folks love the old large car and if no car is available that is appealing they have switched to a truck based something. Tell me a panther or B Body that was not decontented to the hilt and refreshed with all the modern gizmos would not sell. It would probably, with a modern engine and transmission, get close to 20-30MPG. There is no way a full size pickup,CUV or SUV will ever get that. Also explain why the F-150, Ram and Sierra/Silverado still are selling with 4 dollar a gallon gas when most are being used like the Cutlass and 98 of 30 years ago.
JPT, I couldn’t agree more on your perspective on Mulally; I think he was good going into the recession, but “One Ford” is all we may well be getting in the future.
For all of the fanbois, this is what you need to know about me: I grew up in a Ford family. Back in the day when your dad drove a Ford or Chevy, etc., you did what he did. My first new car was a Mercury (actually), and many of my cars were Ford products until one too many crapped out on me.
Granted, the last five years have been horrible to domestic producers, but even though Ford was ahead of the curve in securing financing BEFORE the crash of 2008, it meant that Ford was in dire straits and had no other recourse. Since then, Mercury has been cancelled and it looks like Lincoln will follow unless they come up with a fantastic plan to revive the marque al a Cadillac. I keep hearing that it’s coming, but I’m not seeing much.
Like JPT says, Mulally his expertise may lie in manufacturing (and squeezing cost out of the same), but marketing has me baffled. Even at that, there have been many teething problems with the technology-rich content of new models launched at Ford; Lord help me, I think that Chrysler can launch a more sophisticated tech package in their cars (with the help of Garmin). That’s saying a lot for a car company that whose fate was being decided by a government panel in 2008. I never thought I would say this, but thank the Lord for Fiat (and the desperados who were doing the REAL work of refreshing the turds that Fiat bought into in 2008)!
I loved my Mercurys. I loved the Fords that I owned, but they burned me good. My mother-in-law has a Mercury Monterey minivan (Windstar clone), every time I drive it, it seems soooooo familiar; like I’ve driven it a million miles or more. I literally have muscle memory of those Ford products, it almost feels like second nature to me. But I won’t go back.
Sorry Henry. Sorry Edsel. Sorry Alan. It ain’t gonna happen.
ONE FORD is not everything for every market. The goal is 9 platforms I believe, down from 14 now. But F150 isn’t going away for obvious reasons. Nor the Indian Focus, Mustang or any other niche car/truck that fulfills a specific market.
If the Falcon is only alive because of Australian subsidies then it may be time to team it up with the Mustang chassis to cut costs (and get a US version!) , or move it to a Focus based car AND import the new RWD V8 Mustang.
” In 1988, the last year of import quotas, locally built cars accounted for 90 per cent of sales. This was a time when Commodore, Falcon, Camry and Magna ruled Australia from the suburbs to the outback. Fast-forward less than a quarter of a century, and by the end of last year industry analyst Vfacts listed sales of Australian-built cars at just 12.5 per cent of the market.”
The car market is tough. If it isn’t making money they can’t survive. The Territory is doing well thankfully and Ford’s quality certainly has improved dramatically.
The Territory now has the Ford/Peugeot V6 twin turbo diesel that should be brilliant.
That’s the part I don’t understand either. The Falcon is a brilliant platform with dwindling showroom appeal due to a decade of under-investment. Its sales reflect this.
One possible response to these circumstances (and the one that Ford seems to be pursuing) is to axe the Falcon altogether and replace it with a Euro or NA car that’s probably not as good.
Another would be to channel some NA budget into the Falcon platform, give it the spruce-ups it needs to get back on the sales charts in AUS, and finally fund that LHD conversion so it can replace the bland, bloated, and space-inefficient Taurus in the NA market. Or perhaps I’m underestimating the current Taurus’ success Stateside?
Before Mullay took the riens that was the plan we were to see a new Town Car and likely Crown Vic and Grand Marquis for 2010 based on the Falcon platform, but he axed that plan as one of his first major moves.
Although it was a sound financial move at the time, Ford should have kept Jaguar and Land Rover (and killed Lincoln). There, I said it.
PAG was bloated mess; Volvo has no direction, Mazda is too similar to Ford and Aston is too boutique. But given all the money Ford dumped into Jag for over 25 years, it was stupid to let it go just when the brand finally was taking off. Land Rover, even in the recession, is a license to print money. Meanwhile, Lincoln is a joke unless it gets a multi-billion dollar investment and even then it’s likely doomed. The Ford brand does not have the prestige or the quality to become the new Euro-hipster brand they’re striving to be, either.
All the breathless auto writers are busy praising Ford right now, but I don’t see how the Fusion or Focus are doing anything to meaningfully improve sales. I bet transaction prices have not gone up significantly, while quality has most certainly gone down. A new Mustang is debuting in a year, and it’s suppose to completely abandon the retro themes. They want to appeal to Europeans. That’s going to be the real proof of how out to lunch Ford is, because if that car isn’t a complete flop, I’ll eat my hat.
Ford never made a dime on Jag/LR and were smart to dump them when they could sell them at a reasonable price rather than the fire sale prices that brands went for a short time later.
My wife had a 2006 Taurus she had before we married. I see it as a “feature car,” in that it indeed has a lot of features.
To be honest, I cringe when I have to drive it. The motor is rough, noisy and not particularly powerful. The transmission is a herky-jerky affair but the worst thing about it is how it goes down the road: it just doesn’t drive very well. It needs constant steering correction and the suspension is too soft. Last year I had new tires installed and it still followed road crowns, so off to the alignment shop I went. Everything was bang on and when I mentioned that the car didn’t track well, the tech said:
“A Taurus doesn’t drive the same as an Acura.”
That said, my wife loves her car and it suits her perfectly. Given that it went a grand total of 4,000 km last year and has only 90,000 km on it now, I’d wager we will have it a lot longer. Since it is paid for, that works for me!
From what I’ve heard the 24V 3.0 is more refined, more HP and reliable than the Vulcan.
There’s a name for such animals: “Work cars.”
When you get the car you – or she, or both of you – DO want…you hang onto that one. You know its history.
When the snow flies and the salt trucks are out…you take that POS to work. When you’re going to help a friend with the gardening, and gonna be muddy and greasy when you’re done…that’s the car.
When the dog is violently sick in spasms…that’s your car to take it to the vet.
There’s something to be said for keeping a car around that you love to hate.
Amen, Brother, that’s exactly what our Taurus is for. It is still only 85,000 km and it was in good condition, an ex-rental, when my wife bought it in 2007, for $8800. Today it’s worth half of that and all I ever do to it is change the oil twice a year. I know at the magic 140,000 km it will be toast but at the rate she drives the car, that will take 40 years or so!
2002 wagon 650,000 KMs vulcan engine…daily driver…nothing but consumables replaced.
The new Taurus we bought in 2001 to replace our 1991 Taurus was generally speaking about 3/4 as good of a car. With that being said this same 2001 Taurus has become a comfortable old friend of the family . Though its now being used as a shuttle vehicle for 3 miles back and forth to the high school each day for my son , I wouldn’t hesitate to climb in and drive it cross country.
I would have to say the biggest disappointment with it has been gas mileage. It has always struggled to top anything over 18mpg.
I don’t get all the stories of unreliability. We used Tauruses almost exclusively at the office between 2002 and 2007, and the investigators drove them up to 125K with not much more than tires, brakes and oil. I drove them on a pretty regular basis, and I found them to be solid, comfortable cars. Granted, most of the ones I drove were 2001 and 2002 models, before they did away with the rear sway bar. I especially liked the sage green ’02 Sable GS, with its less Wal-Mart-ish upholstery, woodgrained dash and power pedals.
ICC’s very last Taurus of this generation, a 2007, was sold just a couple of months ago. The fleet now consists of Impalas, Five Hundred-type Tauruses, Nissan Rogues, and one Chevy Traverse.
Tom, I cannot speak for anyone else, but the one I owned was reliable as it always started and always got me there. It’s just that what I experienced while it was running was always a roll of the dice.
The ones I experienced in fleet service were generally decent and ran well. Some simply used a lot of fuel and a few others would grenade the transmission so bad the case would crack. These were cars you pass around relentlessly among drivers (dozens and dozens, not just a handful) and generally weren’t any worse for wear.
Back in 1989, Ford wanted everyone to believe that they could build world-class, quality vehicles. I drank the marketing koolaid, and bought myself a Taurus SHO.
Unfortunately, problems started to appear almost immediately:
1) ‘Leather’ seat bolsters look scuffed, tired and worn out within months.
2) Instrument panel illumination was uneven and ineffective.
3) Front passenger door lock failed.
4) Climate control failed completely (twice).
5) Radio was fixed/replaced three times.
6) Clutch was replaced twice (unnecessarily) before the dealer finally realized it was a problem with the transmission case, where the clutch cable connects to the transmission.
7) The steel bracket holding the muffler failed (!?)
8) One of the steel brackets holding the steering rack to the sub-frame failed while parking the car.
9) The steering rack swallowed a bunch of its own teeth while making a right turn at low speed.
10) Rust was starting to appear on a three-year old car.
11) Rear brakes discs replaced prematurely.
All within 3 1/2 years, about 60,000 miles. I got rid of the car in a hurry after the second steering failure…
Great engine, though!
I thought the MY 2000 refresh of the Taurus and the Sable were a complete success. Apparently no one else did. How the heck did Ford f**k up the 1996 Taurus/Sable so completely that the totally reasonable 2000 refresh didn’t do a thing for sales or its reputation?
I drove a MY 2000 Sable not too long after they were released, it was a high line model (LS maybe?) with leather and all of the toys. At the time we were looking to replace my Dakota (yes, I know, WTF?) with something else; the Sable was still on my radar even though my track record with Fords was suspect. The Sable compared to the Olds Intrigue (my first choice) was about even; I liked the Intrigue slightly more than the Sable, but the Sable would have fulfilled my needs. We went to the local auto show to check out both; my wife found our first Pontiac Aztek instead, a whole different chapter in my car-owning life was started…
I have a friend who’s daughter owns a ~2003 model Taurus, it’s not a bad car. It starts and runs, looks decent (having survived 10 years in Michigan’s harsh weather). It’s a nice size, with the 3.0L Vulcan OHV engine is pretty darn reliable and fairly economical. Her experience with the car is representative of other folks I’ve known with that generation (and equipment) of Taurus, which is to say, average. Really, it’s the kind of car you want YOUR daughter to drive, it’ll get you from A to B with little drama.
I guess the 1996 version was such a departure away from the “America’s Sweetheart” 1986-1995 version that it screwed the pooch forever. I know there was a lot of decontenting through the 00’s, but the early 2000’s versions should have repaired the reputation of the 1996 cars. Maybe not. Once they get that stench of fleet/rental/government car (see Malibu, Avenger, Altima, etc.), I guess it doesn’t go away quickly. The post 2006 Volvo-version seemed to make something of a comeback, but really, the name should have been applied to what is the Fusion now.
How Ford managed to kill the reputation of the Taurus is something of a mystery. I guess the race to cash in on the SUV boom and other poor decisions (like PAG) are really what did the nameplate in. Now, the Taurus is the top of the line model, and rather attractive. But considering my history with Ford products, I don’t imagine I’ll be purchasing one anytime soon.
Sorry Alan. I’ll stick with my Epsilon chassis GM products. Even the “most hated car in America” Malibu has more appeal to me than the Taurus of today.
I agree I think the rushed to production years before it was due MY 2000 mid-cycle refresh was the best mid-cycle refresh of any car ever! they took one of the goofiest looking cars ever designed and made it pretty good looking. Not it is not sexy or anything but it is a good looking car.
IIRC sales did initially go up after the 2000 refresh but not dramatically and certainly not enough to put it back on top.
Well…there was more to it than that.
First, the economy. Which was taking off like a Redstone rocket, after a very minor blip in 2001. Coupled to the social anxiety surrounding the WTC attacks….escapism was a theme and toys were the order of the day. Which meant SUVs…big, hulking SUVs bought on low-low-interest loans.
I think even the original Taurus, even as a new departure from anything the customer had ever seen…wouldn’t have made it in that environment.
Add to that: Ford was getting a black eye. Jacques Nasser was busily wasting corporate funds on his pet projects, annoying investors, while culling the ranks of engineers and development people for reasons other than accomplishment. He had to be sacked and eventually was, but not before he put Ford on a downward trajectory, with poorly-developed and built products and a seeming perpetual money-loss.
So…the Taurus was out of fashion and nobody knew what the hell was up at Ford in the first place. Throw in the memories of the ovoid model, with unsold examples all over every dealer…you might as well have quarantined the dealers.
The refresh looked okay. But it still showed strong resemblance, connection, to the rejected model; which was enough to turn off more of the shrinking Taurus-type customers.
I just inherited a deal on a 2001 Taurus SES Wagon with the base engine and a lot of other options (leather, CD audio, traction control) with only 62,000mi. So I’ll be retiring the 1999 Subaru 2.5GT Wagon that has almost 189,000mi.
I’m hoping I have much better experiences with the Taurus than some of the readers here.
Just do basic maintenance on it and you’ll be fine. Change all of the fluids regularly – all of them. And then some spark plugs and filters once in a while. I just worked on one (a 1998) earlier today with the 3.0l engine in it still running great. Oh, and you’ll probably have to polish your headlamp lenses at some point as well.
“That’s why I think Mulally is a long-term loser for Ford.”
I wholeheartedly disagree. He may have saved them. Tough decisions had to be made, the historically damaging corporate infighting had to stop, the path forward had to be focused. Check, check and check.
While the traditionalist in me was sad to lose the CV and Lincoln Towncar, the reality was that they were long past their sell by date on old platforms, and essentially catering to fleet services, whose whole goal is to stretch the life of a vehicle as far as they can. How many vehicles would that be?
Not to suggest there haven’t been speed bumps….a truly focused vision for Lincoln, the ridiculous nomenclature game for Lincoln (Cadillac and Acura need that memo too), and a small pickup to replace the Ranger.
Overall Billy Ford chose wisely.
That is all fine, as I said originally.
He was good in the crunch. He got done what Bill Ford could not do. He knew to arrange credit to carry them through; and he motivated the troops to carry through the worst of it.
All to the good – as acknowledged.
But the best leader/general/CEO in one situation may be wholly unfit for different circumstances. Lee Iacocca saved Chrysler from the Townsend/Riccardo disorganization; but ten years later the corporation needed be be saved AGAIN, this time from Iacocca badge-engineering.
Mulally saved Ford from the excesses that led to the crisis. But his weakest suit is product planning and understanding of the auto market. And with stability in the auto and durable-goods markets, this is going to become an undeniable handicap.
Is the remote on the right without any markings really OEM? Like the missing Ford name on the wheels, it’s a level of ruthless cost-cutting to rival that of GM at its lowest point.
Another example might be that this was about the time Ford did away with the ‘cancel’ feature on their cruise control (which has returned only within the last few years). If you were driving a Ford and wanted to cancel the cruise control on the highway without turning the cruise completely off (and lose the setting), the only way to do it was to tap the brake (a real PIA).
I doubt the remote on the right in the picture above is an OEM remote, every one of the dozens of them I’ve had were like the one on the left with the colored buttons that are part of the rubber. As far as hitting the wrong button because it isn’t marked, I never look at mine when operating them, after a few times of using it I know where the buttons are located. If it really is a problem, you can get a replacement button sheet for ~$2 on Ebay or a complete replacement cast for ~$3 or if you are feeling fancy one in blue, pink, red or other color for a few dollars more.
Yes, it is OEM. His other one has the pictures on it. I think the only reason it throws me off is because the unlock/lock buttons are different, but I could be wrong. Its really the shape difference that results in errors.
No, that is *not* an OEM Ford remote. It must be some 3rd party equivalent, like you can frequently find on eBay (coming directly from China).
All of the original Ford remote fobs for this generation of Taurus have the trunk and panic buttons in blue and red, respectively. I have a few of them right now. You can wear off the symbols over time with use, but the color of the buttons does not change.
My grandma had a ingot silver dohc 01 with the mach audio best factory stereo iv heard. not the mention the simple 6 disc in the console. She traded it for a 07 montego the air doesn’t work it’s slower but it has 8 more horses. the a/c doesnt work. She wants to trade for a 13 up taurus.
The ’86 Taurus was mid-size, 188″ L and 70″ W. If Ford had frozen these dimensions
the car would have been comfortably mid-sized well into the nineties. Instead, by 1996, the Taurus had become full- size, 197″ L, 73″ W. It no longer directly competed against the Accord. The Contour became Ford’s mid-size entry. So there was confusion as to the “real” Ford. No such confusion at Honda. Making matters worse, the egg-shaped ’96 carried the ovoid theme to gimmicky lengths- see back window- something Honda would never have done. Had the car been streamlined- and just happened to be somewhat ovoid- the design woud have worked better. Likewise, the more conservative 2000 restyle would have been fine, but the roof was raised which kind of clashed with the carry-over doors. A couple of odd ducks, unfortunately.
What’s interesting to me is how much less ridiculous the Australian version of the Taurus looks than the home-market car. The small tweaks made to comply with rest-of-world regulations on things like lights and mirrors make a disproportionate improvement. Still not an attractive car, but less abjectly ugly:
This is an old thread! This gen of Taurus gets a lot of dissing, but my ’05 has been overall good. Most of it’s flaws were salt/corrosion related, and the cost-cutting of the later years. It’s interior layout to me is almost flawless, from driving position to switchgear to quality. Every switch is in the right place, everything can be operated by touch without looking, and to me has the smoothest turn signal switch in the world. The Vulcan motor is very long lived. The trans had issues but early on under warranty. The floors rusted out, patched and rusted out around the patches. The structural areas have held up and even the bushings look good. The original AC compressor was junk. As were the original rear drums. At 170,000 miles still has the original tie rods and belt tensioner. Only needed a tune up, at 120,000 miles and wasn’t running bad yet. Just had to replace the coil pack, a single unit for $20 from the junkyard. 5 minute repair. Smooth and quiet at any speed, even with only carpet for parts of the floor. Never returns more than 19 mpg and 13 on E-85. I actually have the key fob on the left, use it often and it has the original battery. Overall this car has almost Toyota levels of longevity, if with less of the refinement. Well, much less, but it was inexpensive. And I think it’s a good looking car. I like the cat-eye look of the headlights when on. That’s about it. Taurus defended. Mic dropped…
This is a REALLY old thread by now (Feb. 2023, post just above that says it’s old is from Sept. 2018). I am heading off for work in an hour or so and with three “daily drivers” need to decide whether the 2002 Ford Taurus SE wagon will be the car today. It has the 3.0L DOHC Duratec so it’s got plenty of power. It rides and handles well. It has needed a coil pack, spark plugs and wires to cure a miss at 125,000 miles…a plug wire boot at the coil had carbon tracked, ruining the cable and the coil tower, and while at it, the plugs, the original Motorcraft, got replaced 25.000 miles past the recommended interval.
On the “combined audio/climate center stack (or “Instrument Control Panel”) pioneered by the third-gen model. It’s a pain in the ass for people who want to upgrade the audio, but you can’t really argue with its layout”…on the 2002 it’s black as intended; the fake wood finish on the later models looks too phony. But replacements are available to mount standard DIN radios; the climate controls are swapped from the original panel to the one in the installation kit. What makes it a pain to upgrade is that what is in the dash is not a complete radio system. It is a control head only. The electronic “guts” are screwed to the left rear wheelhouse…in the trunk on sedans and behind a plastic panel in wagons. So a long wiring harness needs to run from the front to the back, to feed the loudspeakers and connect the antenna, which is on the left rear quarter. I think this originated with the 1996 “fish-face” Taurus, as our 1994, 1992, 1987 and 1986 Taurus/Sables all had the complete radio/CD player in the dash. Why did Ford do that??? It all does work well once installed, admittedly; I might be listening to it later today.
On the wagon, wiring to the rear defroster is unprotected: a coiled loop dangles and when loading cargo, there is a chance to snag it and pull its terminal off the window. Don’t ask how I know. This design dates from the 1986 Taurus wagon. It is easy enough to fix with some skill, a good soldering iron, low-temperature silver solder used in jewelry making, and the proper flux. Why did Ford NOT conceal and protect it???
I was the original owner of a 90 Taurus sedan (Vulcan V6), and put 331,000 rather trouble-free miles on that car over the 20 years I owned it. It only let me down once (distributor module) in all those years. I still own and drive an 04 Taurus (Vulcan) with 203,000 miles. It has been totally reliable. I have replaced the starter once, and the water pump once, and the brakes once, and the ‘distributor’ shaft once, but everything else is original. (Ford did drop the rear sway bar in mid-2004, the month before mine was built…then in ’05 they dropped ABS and a few other things. Mine is otherwise nicely equipped.) I know the trannies weren’t the best (I’ve babied mine and changed fluid and filter every 30k as recommended…still good!), but the Vulcan engine is bullet-proof and easy to work on. Parts are cheap and plentiful! The DOHC engine was powerful and durable, but a pain to work on! I refused to own one of those! It is a shame that Ford let the #1 or #2 selling car model, go downhill (the fish-face 1996 restyle didn’t help); and then it was foolish of them to give up a good nameplate (Taurus) and then try to reclaim it when the “500” nameplate bombed….further proof that big and smart businesses, often make big mistakes, and wrong assumptions. I see a number of 2001-2007 Tauruses on the road yet, here in rustbelt WI. I rarely see GM or Chrysler sedans of that era (of course-some Camrys and Accords survive). But I’ll swear by the Taurus for good transportation and good value.
I always thought they dialed it back too far and it looked boring from the start. The sedan, that is; the wagon being carryover from the cowl back got the balance right and was well improved by the new face.
A used 1997 Ford Taurus was my first grown up car after I got a real job in 1999. I drove that car from Western New York to North Carolina to Miami yearly and owned it until 2010. 150K+ miles. I did get a rebuilt transmission in 2006 and had to get the AC fixed once, but overall it was a great car. It was quiet, ran great and had a cushy ride. I loved the power seats, windows and the flip up console arm rest thing. I loved the OVAL-Ness of the design : the headlights, the grill, the buttons and switches, the AC ducts. One of my favorite cars.