By on October 27, 2016

Poling Ford Taurus

Exactly a decade ago today, Ford ended production of the legendary Ford Taurus.

Along with Dodge’s Caravan, the Taurus is absolutely one of the most influential and important cars of the 1980s. It ushered in a new era of automotive design in North America and created a wholly new template for the modern sedan — and Ford turned its back on it.

Launched in 1985, the initial Taurus replaced the conservative LTD as Ford’s midsize offering. Borrowing a great deal from Ford Europe’s Sierra and Audi’s 5000, it was highly praised for its modern, aerodynamic design and immediately became a sales leader. Over two million first-generation cars had been sold by 1991.

The car received a subtle and familiar redesign in its second generation before Ford decided to make the car unrecognizable in 1996. Jack Telnack’s controversial ovoid redesign of the Taurus led to diminished interest from the public, although rental fleets kept figures high enough to keep pace with Japanese midsize imports like the Camry and Accord. Telnack left Ford the following year.

As interest in the Taurus declined, Ford began seeking ways to cut costs in order to keep the model competitive. In its 2000 redesign, Ford eliminated premium features on higher-end models and dropped the SHO performance variant.

Ford Taurus Meet

Ford’s decision to eliminate the Taurus is difficult one to understand. Sales of the fourth-generation car remained relatively stable until the company began cutting back on production, only selling to fleets by 2006. While the terrible cast iron Vulcan V6 stretched itself to its absolute limit to compensate for the model’s continually growing mass, the Duratec 30 provided better-than-tepid power. Ford was facing very public financial troubles at the time and was losing the sedan war to the Japanese, but it could still be argued that the demise of the Taurus was premature. Honda sold 369,293 Accords in 2005, while Ford managed 304,851 as production began to slow.

When the last Taurus finally left the line in Hapeville, Georgia, it took 1,950 jobs with it. One of those jobs belonged to John Rape from Zebulon, GA. “It hasn’t sunk in yet. Wait until Monday morning when I wake up and don’t have anywhere to go,” he told USA Today in an interview.

Rape and the other workers could select among eight different separation, educational and retirement packages offered by Ford. At the time, the company was undergoing its massive The Way Forward restructuring plan aimed at reshaping the company and reducing expenses as hard times approached.

The last fourth-generation Taurus went to Chick-fil-A restaurant chain founder Truett Cathy, who credited the success of his first restaurant in Hapeville to repeat business from Ford workers across the street.

The Taurus’ death was short lived, however. Rumors of the Five Hundred being renamed as the Taurus were confirmed in 2007. That year, revamped Five Hundred and Freestyle models were unveiled as the Taurus and Taurus X at the Chicago Auto Show. Ford’s CEO at the time, Alan Mulally, said that he believed the Taurus’ initial discontinuation was a mistake, asserting that the Five Hundred should have been named Taurus from the very start.

Despite the revived Taurus name, later models haven’t come close to the sales successes of the “failing” model years of the early 2000s. Ford only sold 48,816 units of the full-size current incarnation of the Taurus in 2015. Shrinking passenger car sales aside, it’s probably partly because it’s not the Taurus North America remembers anymore. That car died ten years ago.

1986-Ford-Taurus

[Images: Ford Motor Company]

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93 Comments on “Happy 10th Anniversary of Your Death, Ford Taurus...”


  • avatar
    indi500fan

    Interesting sidelight about Truett Cathy and Chick-fil-A.
    Probably will draw another burst of outrage from those alt left folks.
    ;-)

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      Meh. I find it a kind gesture by a guy who could likely buy just about whatever he wanted as transportation.

      And it isn’t exactly “alt left” to think that same sex marriage ISN’T a threat to my straight marriage. That’s the argument that’s always baffled me – if gay marriage is somehow a threat to your straight marriage you’ve got bigger problems than a Supreme Court ruling.

      • 0 avatar
        quaquaqua

        The Truett controversy wasn’t so much about him just opposing gay marriage, but it was about some of the diabolical “charities” he was donating his money to. I still refuse to eat there. But you’re absolutely right, his decision to purchase the last Taurus was about supporting the local economy — that’s absolutely a kind gesture and there’s no way you couldn’t appreciate that.

        • 0 avatar
          N8iveVA

          quaquaqua: Exactly. I don’t care if he’s against gay marriage, everyone is entitled to their opinion. Although from a business standpoint I don’t understand why you’d alienate part of your customer base, just keep your mouth shut. My issue has always been with the hate groups they donate to. As a result they will never get a dollar from me.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Lawls. One man’s rebel is another man’s freedom fighter.

            Tomato, tomaeto.

          • 0 avatar
            Dave M.

            There’s a little mom and pop auto body shop on the road behind us. Many years ago I had them do a pin stripe on my then new car, as well as some minor dings and dents on our back up car.

            Around the time Obama got elected the letter sign outside their shop got very political and has remained so these past 8 years. I noticed his business has dropped off considerably but they still are in business. When a business chooses to broadcast their politics they face a risk.

            Unfortunately my kid LOVES Chick-fil-A. So on a daily basis I pick up her #1 meal on my way to What-A-Burger and then swim practice….

      • 0 avatar
        garuda

        Gay marriage is destroying American families because… reasons.

      • 0 avatar
        Kenmore

        “if gay marriage is somehow a threat to your straight marriage”

        That mystifies me, too. But I’ve never watched two men kiss and thought “I coulda had dat”.

    • 0 avatar
      ToddAtlasF1

      I live in a left wing dystopia that might well be ranked for others per-capita. None-the-less, I’ve completely given up on eating lunch at the Chick-fil-A up the street from my office. There’s always a drive-through line wrapping around their parking lot and extending into the street. If they’re open, they’re slammed with customers who probably deny eating there while discussing the latest propaganda they picked up from NPR.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        I strongly dislike the owner’s politics, but I do love their chicken sandwiches. So I eat one occasionally. And momentarily feel bad about it, then go on with my day.

        One thing I really, truly do respect about them though, is the whole not open on Sunday thing. Putting convictions and beliefs over profits is a very rare and admirable thing, even if I disagree with those beliefs.

        • 0 avatar
          Japanese Buick

          +1 krhrodes1. I also dislike the owner’s politics but I still eat there and I DON’T feel bad about it. I’ve never believed in political boycotts, they just add to tribalism and self-segregation IMO.

  • avatar
    jmo

    “One of those jobs belonged to John Rape from Zebulon, GA.”

    A name change might get you more call backs on the ol’ resume. Same goes for your daughter Anna-Lee.

  • avatar
    Kenmore

    Taurus and Accord vying for #1 best-seller was an interesting fight.

    To use sumo terms, Honda no kachi.

    • 0 avatar
      thornmark

      The 1996 redesign – Ford laid an egg.

      As for vying for #1, Taurus was heavily fleet and Accord virtually all retail. So they really weren’t fighting each other, Ford was fighting to stem the loses and keep the plants running.

      The later “Volvo” platform has underperformed in most applications.

  • avatar
    brn

    Not sure why Ford didn’t use the Fusion didn’t continue the Taurus name.

    • 0 avatar
      Richard Chen

      That was the era when someone had the bright idea that every Ford car should begin with the letter F: Focus, Fusion, Five Hundred, Freestyle, Freestar.

      • 0 avatar
        MRF 95 T-Bird

        As well as Fairlane, Falcon and F-Series. Dumping the Taurus name is akin to Toyota dropping the names Camry and Corolla. Long lasting popular brands mean a lot to companies and consumers.

        • 0 avatar
          Gardiner Westbound

          And Acura renaming the Legend to 3.5RL.

          • 0 avatar
            garuda

            Mazda mx-5, the car that is definitely not a Miata (for now)

          • 0 avatar
            thornmark

            The dif is that the Taurus name was ruined by its rental car status.

            The Legend had the opposite problem, the name was so strong in a positive way that it overshadowed the Acura brand. The marketing genius who came up the switch idea must be a legend too – in a bad way.

      • 0 avatar
        dukeisduke

        The Five Hundred was also known as the Flop Hundred.

        • 0 avatar
          pdieten

          Which was a damn shame, because those were really well built cars and nice to drive (relative to a Crown Vic…) Granted, they should have put the A-W 6-speed in all the FWD models instead of the CVT, but other than that they were really nice to live with and an excellent Crown Vic replacement.

          Hard to deny that the VW/Audi body designed by J Mays just didn’t work on the Volvo-derived platform though. Honestly, nothing really seems to work on that platform, it’s too bulky. Sturdy as all hell though.

          The Taurus from ’08-09 is a better car than the 500; the Duratec 35 and 6F trans make for a bulletproof drivetrain and the car was even more solidly built.

    • 0 avatar
      trecoolx

      The Fusion felt like the spiritual successor to the fourth-gen Taurus. Had they not self-sabotaged the 4th-gen Taurus with cost-cutting and fleet sales, maybe Ford would have had enough faith to keep using the name (like they did with the Mustang) as opposed to the F thing.

      • 0 avatar
        la834

        Really, the cheapening started with the 2nd generation in 1992. Obvious cost cutting was everywhere. Smaller gas tank, no more rear headrests, fewer storage compartments, no woodgrain trim, cheaper upholstery, rear center armrest deleted on most models, many more I can’t remember.

        • 0 avatar
          Roberto Esponja

          You’re absolutely right, la834. The 2nd generation was a lamer version of the first one in most respects. It’s like instead of “European FWD sports sedan” as their benchmark they’d changed to “pharmaceutical sales rep commuter car”.

        • 0 avatar
          ponchoman49

          And a trans axle that had a high failure rate amongst other things.

          1992 began the real death spiral of this name plate

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      I suspect it had something to do with what this story was talking about – by the mid-2000s, the Taurus nameplate lost any cachet it once had. By the end, it was *the* definitive rental car.

      Ford killed by refusing to update it, I’d say. By 2000, all of its’ competitors had left the Taurus FAR behind in terms of sophistication. Otherwise, it’d have been a very viable nameplate for a long time.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    When I bought my first car in 1991, a used Taurus was absolutely the best value on the market for something with four doors. The car had a reasonably modern feel to it and was well equipped in higher trims. I eventually owned two early Tauruses, one Vulcan-powered and one SHO. Both were satisfying to drive and ride in for cars of the time, but both were unreliable (the SHO badly so) and suffered major assembly quality issues. It took another decade or more before the Big Three started to improve reliability and assembly quality to the same extent that Ford improved the product concept with the Taurus.

    • 0 avatar
      DC Bruce

      Interesting . . . I bought a ’92 SHO, new, and kept it 10 years. I did not find it unreliable, although it had two significant weaknesses: the clutch throw-out bearing, which failed just outside of warranty and the brake discs which, because they were cheap metal, warped easily. In the metro DC area, there was a place called the SHO Shop that sold aftermarket stuff for the car. I accepted their suggestion and bought better quality (German, they said) brake discs, which pretty much solve that problem — although the brakes were not up to German standard in stopping power. Going to a larger disc required replacing the front spindles, which I never felt was cost-justsified. After the clutch throw-out bearing was replaced, the clutch was fine thereafter. Eventually, there was an exhaust system failure, so I replaced the exhausts with a performance exhaust (which was a little louder) and, IIRC different down pipe which made the car feel a little stronger. But honestly, coming from an ’87 Mustang GT and moving up to a ZE 3.0, the SHO did not feel slow, just less bottom end torque than the Mustang (a lot less, obviously) and the BMW. The Yamaha engine loved to rev and made a wonderful sound above 3500 rpm when the short intake runners kicked in. Best V-6 ever.

      The only other failure, after 9 years or so, was that there was some sort of plastic liner for the interior of the fuel tank that began coming off in little bits and trashing the fuel pump. The fuel pump was not a cheap repair, and replacing the fuel tank on a 10-year old car was just not cost effective.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        You got a good one. My ’89 SHO had the following failures during my six years and ~90,000 miles of ownership (starting at 68,000):

        – 1 manual transmission
        – 2 air conditioning compressors
        – 2 power steering pumps
        – 1 alternator
        – 1 radiator (catastrophic)
        – 1 heater core
        – 2 power seat motors
        – Several power window switches
        – Steady diet of brake rotors

        By the time I sold the car, the third-gear syncro in the rebuilt transmission was starting to get finicky.

        About the only things that didn’t fail were the engine, which was just as good as you said and the only reason I kept the thing for so long, and the clutch, because I babied it like crazy.

        • 0 avatar
          ponchoman49

          The 1992 on up models added spring failures, trans-axle failures and head gaskets to the mix. We also had quite a few 1996 on up Duratec 3.0’s with intake gasket failures and leaky head gaskets. These were for sure trouble some cars during my time in the auto business.

  • avatar
    MatadorX

    Really terrible ford couldn’t be persuaded to keep Fusion/Milan/Zephyr production state side post Taurus. Classic example of NAFTA’s destructive influence. Wanna build el cheapo cars south of the border because of thin margins, I get. But when the Fusion came out, most on the lot were $25-35k, Milan’s close to 40k, and Zephyr’s even more. Toyota has no problem making a profit making a Camry in Kentucky or at the time Japan for the XLE. As the consumer, I’d tend to go that way.

    I say this as someone who’s significant other drives an ’08 Milan 2.3 MZR and it has proven pretty good other than by 170k suspension bushings ($30); trim (dash, parking brake broke, door handles broke, mirror compass broke)/& of course 1 tranny at 100k before she inherited it. An ’08 Camry with the 2AZ-FE would have 100% chance by 170k suffered from oil consumption, dash and headliner failure, clear coat failure, same sort of bushing/suspension bushing failure, and potentially head gasket woes depending on build date. Tomato Tomahto I guess.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      These are the sorts of long term ownership reports that fascinate me. What failed on the transmission? And what suspension components went bad?

      2AZ-FE oil consumption was definitely a thing on the 02-06 cars, I want to say the head bolt issue was restricted to the earlier years within that generation(?). Did the oil use stuff continue into 6th gen Camry? I’m not as privy to the body/paint/interior issues, but I do know that the 6th gen as a whole is maligned for interior quality and cost cutting. Getting into a 5th gen XLE after a 6th gen is pretty eye opening.

    • 0 avatar
      Tumbling-Dice

      When the Fusion and its siblings came out, their prices weren’t anywhere close to that.

  • avatar
    Funky

    I owned two Tauruses. A 1996 and a 2003 (At least I think I recall it was a ’03; it might have been ’01 or ’02. I don’t recall for sure.). I also had the Mercury variant, a 2000 Sable. I liked the look/shape of the 1996 Taurus a lot. However, until just now, I had forgotten about some of its mechanical problems. The transmission failed at less than 1,000 miles (replaced with a brand new unit under warranty). And, the heater core broke at about 85,000 miles. Also, at speeds above 70MPH the vehicle sometimes became somewhat airborne under certain windy circumstances (which was an odd problem). And, finally, I recall that the thing made a weird (and annoying) high pitched whistling noise at highway speeds. The 2000 Sable had none of these problems. Nor did the 2003 Taurus. However, I drove these two for far fewer miles (less than about 30k on each before I sold them) than I did the 1996 Taurus which had about 100k miles when I sold it. In general, I felt these were likable cars. In spite of all of its problems, I was sorry to see the 1996 be sold (the car’s name, by the way, was ‘Cooper’).

    • 0 avatar
      Eiriksmal

      Ugh, talk about problems.

      My dad had 4 or 5 Tauruses growing up. Company cars. They were in the shop a lot, but it didn’t really matter ’cause the company’d just give you another one while they fixed the broken one.

      My brother and I each bought a Taurus from the company as our first rides. I chose the sparkly dark blue ’01 with low miles (60K), leaving him the beige green ’03 with more miles (80K). I paid a whopping $5K for it in ’07.

      Ultimately, we both chose the wrong car. His transmission died at 90K miles, on top of whatever other smaller problems he had.

      When I sold my car at 105K, the transmission was okay… But the car devoured the ECU’s main fuse on the engine wiring harness. It left me stranded on the side of the interstate. Twice. It’s the same design as the AC compressor fuse (IIRC), so I kept those special $20 fuses in the glovebox after the second stranding.

      The coil pack had to be replaced (what wears on a coil pack!?), and the replacement was faulty. That was the last time I purchased electrical parts from Autozone.

      A design failure (TSB issued) led to water coming through the cabin air intake and shorting out the blower motor resistor. Twice.

      I replaced two heater cores in 40K miles. After the second time, something else was still wrong and the mechanic suggested the head gasket was leaking. I sold it for my first 6MT Maxima and never looked back.

      Reliability problems aside, the car was very comfortable, much more comfortable than my 5.5 and 6th gen Maximas, and devoured highway miles. Other than that, it sucked. No speed. Not much handling. Bad stereo. No creature comforts, besides the random power lumbar adjustment.

      If I didn’t have a friend who loved me dearly and taught me the Way of the Car Enthusiast, my enthusiasm would have died with that terrible, terrible iron Vulcan lump. Rest in pieces, you ol’ hoopty.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      “(the car’s name, by the way, was ‘Cooper’)”

      When I was growing up, my dad had a friend who named his 1954 Chevrolet Bel Air “Betsy”. My uncle who raced Fords in the postwar 1940s named his favorite race car “Murgatroid”. The last guy I knew who named his car was a Navy veteran who named his 1976 Volare “Yousorrypieceofsh*t”.

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    BTW while designer Jack Telnack is referenced in the text, I think that’s Harold “Red” Poling in the lead picture.

  • avatar
    Jeff Zekas

    Transmission failure was the undoing of Taurus. Almost bought one, until my buddy’s Taurus blew the tranny at under 80K miles. Sorry, Ford, but quality always comes first.

    • 0 avatar
      jhefner

      Ford finally got the AXON’s woes sorted out in 1995; it was trouble-free after that.

      • 0 avatar
        Zackman

        You mean there was another tranny just as bad as the Ultradrive? You never heard about it like the Chrysler tranny.

      • 0 avatar
        ponchoman49

        The original AXOD and AXOD-E transaxkes in the Taurus up until 1995 were a disaster. Starting in 1996 the newer designed AX4N was substituted in the SHO and Duratec cars and was much better but still not perfect. The Vulcan cars didn’t get this trans-axle until 2004 so all Vulcan equipped Taurus/ Sables continued on with the older less reliable re-named AX4S transmission and continued to have reliability and early failure woes.

    • 0 avatar
      ExPatBrit

      I had 1990 as a company car, the transmission failed at about 45,000 miles. The replacement transmission failed about 9 months later in the middle of nowhere.

      Walked to the nearest town, never saw the car again, company replaced it with a 1993 model that was much better.

      The 97 version that replaced it was “low rent”. I transferred it to another employee and started using my own vehicle.

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    I was a dye-in-the-wool Japanese car only kind of guy until I borrowed my dad’s 1994 Mercury Sable with the 3.8L (if I remember correctly). It was quite a bit more torquey and faster than the 2.4L in the ’94 Nissan trcuk I was driving at the time.

    After that it was a spell of American cars: Mercury, Chevy, Ford, Buick – oddly enough no Chrysler has ever been in my driveway.

  • avatar
    ajla

    Flame suit on, but the H-body was better.

  • avatar
    PandaBear

    Dad had an 01 Vulcan. It went 10 year and 90k miles without big problems, but lots of small problems. The interior and under the hood quality and handling was bad, the fuel economy sucks, but it was cheap and it is big. Compare to a late 90s Accord and Camry and you’ll definitely not pick the Taurus if you can afford.

    Rubber and plastics part rot way earlier than even our 95 Corolla, despite being an 01, in the same garage. That tells you something about the corner cutting big 3 did back then.

  • avatar
    geozinger

    I was in love with the original Taurus. A friend of mine had one as her company car, in 1986 it was nearly a UFO compared to my 1985 Mercury Capri RS 5.0L. Granted the RS was a lot faster, but the Taurus did everything (but acceleration runs) much better.

    By the 1991(?) MCE it was a known quantity and honestly getting stale. But they still met the needs of a lot of people and those people bought them up. But, in 1996 when the ovoid Taurus arrived, no matter how good the car underneath, it was too far out of expectations for Ford. Had that been a Hyundai, it probably would have been well received. One thing is certain, mid size car buyers are actually pretty conservative. The 2000 restyle brought some sanity back to the car, but it was too little too late. And by then, Ford had gone “all in” on trucks and SUVs, they were only feeding the car development budgets the scraps. It showed.

    I too thought the Fusion should have been the Taurus, and the 500 should have been a Galaxie. But I really think that unless Ford releases another groundbreaking car like the 1986 Taurus, they should quietly retire the name.

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      Hello, Geo;

      The 1st gen Taurus became the go-to company car at the company I worked for when I still lived in the STL area. All I heard about was the problems the sales guys had with them. Cooling system problems with the weak 4 cyl. engines. Others popped up, but I no longer recall what they were. The 1992 refreshed Taurus was a much better car, as I remember. That was the model I had a desire for. Design-wise, it was beautiful. The original one looked not-quite-finished.

      Interestingly, the ONE feature on the original model that really had me scratching my head was that arrow-straight column shifter that stuck out like a sore thumb! Couldn’t get over that! That screamed “cheap” to me. The dash design was also nothing to write home about.

  • avatar
    Spartan

    We’ve had three. We still own two; a 1994 SHO MTX and a 2010 Taurus SHO. My wife also owned a 1997 Taurus while we were in undergrad many years ago.

    The 97 had an awesome ride and we loved that front bench. It’s the most comfortable car we’ve ever owned. We loved the floaty ride. We hated the unreliability. We sold it for a 2002 Ford Explorer, and we later sold that for a 2008 Ford Explorer.

    The 94 SHO, which is with a family member right now, is an absolute blast to drive. I bought it for $1,500 in Maryland a few years ago. It ran terribly but all it needed was some oxygen sensors and new exhaust.

    The 2010 Taurus SHO I have a love/hate relationship with. It’s fast, but it’s cramped. The interior features are great, but the seats aren’t comfortable. The infotainment system is reliable, but has a bit of lag. The ride is controlled, but not nearly as comfortable as the 96 Taurus we had. It’s long paid for and with only 70k on the odo, I will drive it until it dies. It’ll probably replace it with a Cadillac CT6 or an E-Class once our XC90 is paid off. A PHEV Conti would get my money tomorrow.

    The Taurus lost its way with the 1996 model. That car would have been perfect had it been reliable and didn’t look like an egg. The feature content was there, it had a decent engine with the 24v Duratec and it had a great ride.

    • 0 avatar
      Lack Thereof

      The duratec should have been the base engine and AX4N the base transmission, base-model-price-point be damned. Ford should have let the Contour fill the low-price-midsize niche and allowed the Taurus to soar. They could have saved 2 nameplates at once.

  • avatar
    ttacgreg

    The original is a timeless design.

  • avatar
    donutguy

    I bought a 2003 24 valve back in 2012. Bought it mainly because it was a former Verizon company car and had a full service history in the glovebox.

    I don’t think the dealer checked that as the car had 170k miles on it, but just about everything replaced from the radiator back to the replaced rear springs. New trans at 70k, new longblock at 120k.

    I bought it for 2 grand and drove the piss out of it for 3 years and sold it for more than I paid for it.

  • avatar
    jacob_coulter

    I remember falling in love with the original Taurus when it first came out when I saw it in “RoboCop” as a kid. It looked so futuristic.

    And I actually liked the “ovoid” Taurus redesign in 1996 as well. Regardless of the aesthetics, the car felt far more upscale than what it replaced.

    Quality control seemed to always be an issue with Ford, just like the rest of the Big 3. People seemed to have this idea that in the 90’s that was all well behind them, but it was still a major issue for consumers.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      The first Taurus that seemed to be really well made was the otherwise boring refresh of the ovoid car for 2000.

    • 0 avatar
      ponchoman49

      Quality control was much better during the 90’s but all makes still suffered issues during this time not just the big 3. Paint peel was quite common on Asian cars along with American and German as an example. Toyota’s started the famous engine sludging issues during this time, Honda suffered from poor brakes and transmissions later in the decade. GM had there intake manifold/Dex cool problems, Chrysler was well still making quite a bit junk starting with the Ultra drive trans-axle and Ford’s issues are well documented here.

      But I do remember most of my 1990 cars running really well and lasting longer than my 1970’s and 80’s examples.

  • avatar
    Xeranar

    The problem with the Taurus/Fusion naming issue was the cache the Taurus lost in the late 90’s. Had the Fusion shown up years sooner it would have likely have been named Taurus but instead the Taurus died a sad and slow death. Going forward I wouldn’t be surprised if the Fusion remains for decades to come. Focus is already 18 years old and isn’t likely to be renamed anytime soon, so we’re probably going to see the Fusion name to stick around for decades as well.

    The difference between the Japanese & Americans on keeping names was that bad models got replaced quick enough to just keep the name rolling. It’s not like every Camry or Accord has been a winner but they never let them whither on the vine. 1996 to 2006 is a long time to let a jellybean model run without a significant redesign. After the bad facelift, had they gone back and fixed it’s face somewhat then jumped to a new platform in 2006 for the Fusion, the Fusion would likely have been a Taurus.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    The district I work for bought a a large number of Taurus’ right at the end of production while they were blowing them out to fleets. All identical white cars with mouse fur grey interiors. Take a licking and keep on ticking (they still have most of them.)

  • avatar
    Dingleberrypiez_Returns

    This article misses a lot of the details around the Gen III Taurus and how they played into the car’s downfall. Compare a 1980s Taurus to a Camry or Accord from the same time; the Taurus was bigger, more powerful, and a far more modern and revolutionary design than either of those cars (reliability is another story). Then came the 1992 Camry, which remains a high mark for Toyota. With the Camry moving in on Taurus territory, Ford felt they had to go all-out on the Gen III, to try and top the 1992 era Camry in every conceivable fashion. They partially succeeded – the 1996 was a great car by many measures, and although the styling was controversial, it was unique (unlike the gen II) which wasn’t a bad strategy at this point with everything looking the same (not only had the Camry received the 90s style curved treatment, but all the other Japanese and domestic cars as well). Costs also rose. That was as much of a killer as anything Japanese, and is why later versions of the Gen III as well as the Gen IV were decontented.

    Also, don’t forget the absolutely massive shift to SUVs in the mid/late 90s. Ever heard of a little car called the Explorer?

    I’d encourage Matt Posky, and anyone else who is interested, to search for “Taurus Curbsideclassic” for more Ford Taurus than you can shake a stick at. That teensy tiny research effort could have made this article better.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      We had a 1987 Taurus and a 1988 Accord at the same time, and I’d challenge that assessment.

      The Taurus was roomier, quieter, and far faster, and was the car of choice for any long trip. But it was the Accord that seemed ahead of its time design-wise, both inside (where it had the best fabric of any car I’ve ever owned) and out (where it looked like a spaceship at the time). And the build quality was absolutely night and day. That Accord was almost as tight as a modern car, while the Taurus had rattles, loose bits, and poorly installed trim everywhere. The Accord, while not perfect, also proved much more reliable.

      Of course, it also cost almost twice as much, with both cars bought around the four-year mark.

      • 0 avatar
        Dingleberrypiez_Returns

        I think we only disagree regarding design. I still think the Taurus had a more revolutionary and influential design- it essentially established the exterior design language for the 1990s. I’m surprised to hear you say the Accord looked like a “spaceship,” since the Accord’s preceding designs were very similar. It’s design may have been more refined, but the late 80s Accord still had the same boxy shape that had originated several years if not decades prior. Build quality (e.g. nice fabrics, tightness) is not the same as design.

        I remember when my mom replaced her Toyota Corona wagon with a 1987 Taurus wagon in 1993. I was pumped. I really felt like we were moving into something modern. I don’t think I would have felt that way about an Accord. I also remember riding in my baseball coach’s 1992 Camry XLE, and thinking how much nicer it was then my mom’s Taurus.

        • 0 avatar
          Spartan

          Ah, the 90s Camry. I remember when the 92 Camry debuted and remember seeing dark green XLE V6 models with gold trim. Those were really nice cars and they were definitely a lot nicer than the Taurus at the time.

  • avatar
    quaquaqua

    It really is sad, though. Considering the other products Ford was offering in the 80s (my god, that Tempo), they nailed it with the Taurus. Roomy, quiet, nice handling, modern styling. But even through the 90s (and my family had both a Taurus and two Sables), the reliability just wasn’t there. Random noises, head gasket problems, leaky air seals around the windows…

    Ya know, people always rag on Toyota for making “appliances” like the Camry, but honestly, the Taurus was a big reason for the Camry going in that direction. The ’92 and ’97 Camry designs – which still hold up – were basically just them building reliable Tauruses. And they f’ing nailed it.

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      Yeah, I still see late 90s Camries all over the place, and most of them look like they just rolled out of the showroom. Amazing.

      • 0 avatar
        threeer

        Still my mother’s favorite car of all the ones she’s owned (1993 Camry).

        Rented way too many Taurii back in the day, but they served me well from Detroit down to Clarksville, TN. Though not a fan, I did think that dropping the “Taurus” name and not improving the breed didn’t do Ford any favors.

      • 0 avatar
        ponchoman49

        There must be a lot of elderly folks driving them with low miles in your area because in Upstate, NY well into the southern states seeing a 1990’s Toyota anything is a rare site these days.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    For the 2005 model year, 69% of Taurus/Sable sales went to fleet; 53% of total sales went to rental. The Impala, 300, Lacrosse and Avalon all had higher retail sales.

    In 2005, Ford sold its interest in Hertz.

    The mistake was to bring it back. Mulally made a lot of smart moves, but that wasn’t one of them.

    • 0 avatar
      thattruthguy

      The revived Taurus was a meh car in a shrinking market sector launched into the teeth of the Great Recession. They could called it TorqueBlast 3000 and it wouldn’t sell.

  • avatar
    Conslaw

    I think it was either either August of 2000 or 2001, a local Ford dealer was advertising “2 Taurus for the price of 1”. They had a bunch of used current model year taurii that they were selling for about $12,000; which was right at 1/2 of the $24,000 list price of the same car new. The used vehicles were likely fresh out of the fleet of a rental car agency. I gave some thought of buying two of them, one for my wife and one for me, to get us both in newish cars. Neither of us really neeed a car at that time, so it didn’t get much more than a passing thought. Later, I thought that if they could sell these cars retail at 1/2 the list price, what was the trade-in value? I don’t think ANY current car loses value that fast.

  • avatar
    Jimal

    I worked as a technician at a Ford dealership at the beginning of Peak Taurus. The things that stand out to me to this day were the occasional non-SHO manual transmission model, the 4-cylinder MT-5, that we saw, the RPMs available from the SHO engine (IIRC the limiting factor of the redline was the power steering pump), and that the placement of the oil filter on the 3.8 models made it difficult to remove and impossible without making a mess of the subframe.

  • avatar
    sirwired

    In the mid-‘noughts I went on a lot of business trips, and the car Hertz always gave me was a Taurus. My ride at the time was (and still is) an ’04 Passat Wagon, and the Taurus could not be more different, from handling to interior to an overall feeling of quality. (The Taurus had wallowing steering, a horrible engine note, loosey-goosey interior controls, doors that made rather indifferent sounds when being closed, etc.)

    P.S. The one time Hertz didn’t give me a Taurus that year I was immeasurably grateful for the Chevy Mailbu I got. At least, I was grateful until it dawned on my the purpose of this trip was visiting Ford Motor Credit HQ, literally in the shadow of Ford World HQ.

    Also, I almost snapped the wiper stalk off that Malibu because my brain was saying “rental car = column shifter”.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    Ford really blew it with the Taurus. They created the “perfect” Taurus with the early 90’s refresh – they did it right, finally, and completely lost their mind on the “symphony of ovals” 1996 model. Strike one.

    If that weren’t bad enough, when Ford discontinued the Taurus and introduced the Fusion, well, that was strike two.

    The Fusion, when it came out, looked like a two-generation-old Accord! Good car, nonetheless. However, it being the same size, it should have been Taurus.

    Renaming the 500 as Taurus. That car should have been called “Galaxie” from the start. Now, it’s a huge rolling bunker! Yer out!

    The hits just kept on coming…

    Thanks anyway, Ford, but I’ll keep my Chevy; but in any case, the current Fusion is sure a nice car – so much so that it is a car I would consider if I were in the market.

    Interestingly, 10 years ago we had a rental Taurus on vacation in California, and it was one of the finer rental cars I ever had. So too the Fusion in 2009.

  • avatar

    It was a huge mistake to split the Taurus’ market into the ’06 Fusion and ’05 Five Hundred (as the Crown Vic was still selling well). Two platforms replacing one car?

    I can’t believe it’s been 10 years, so here’s my shameless throwback:

    https://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2006/09/ford-taurus-oedipus-wrecks/

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      The Crown Vic/ Grand Marquis were fleet queens that were not selling particularly well as of 2005.

      Ford had less reason to maintain high fleet sales when it sold Hertz.

      Pushing the Fusion was a wise move. It has a platform that can be used globally to build a wide variety of cars, which should make it profitable.

  • avatar
    cgjeep

    I do miss the Panther love on this page.

  • avatar
    True_Blue

    Ah, some memories in that picture. Yellow car in the second image is a former Bob Bondurant driving school car. Some of the 1G SHOs in that image have the slotted Police Package grille, adding a bit of cooling area and a lot of attitude. You can see a row of the 3G V8-powered cars in the back row, too.

    I was very active in the Taurus/SHO scene in the late nineties-early 2000s, when these cars were riding high, even moderating a Taurus page. When the 4G cars were announced for termination, it was a sad moment for “bullfans”, but not exactly unforeseen.

    The infamous Derick Kuzak quote on the “Homer Simpson” restyle of the 500 into the Taurus was more a sign of the times than any sales figure. Ford didn’t know what it wanted to do with the nameplate even back then.

  • avatar
    Tumbling-Dice

    The figure provided for the Taurus’ 2005 sales – 304k – is way off. Ford sold 196k Tauruses in 2005. I’m not sure where goodcarbadcar is getting those numbers.

    Source: http://www.theautochannel.com/news/2006/01/04/204860.html

  • avatar
    Kendahl

    My reaction on seeing my first Taurus was that it reminded me of the Audi 5000 but wasn’t as sleek or elegant. Never owned one so I can’t talk about reliability. I do remember a few things from driving them.

    I had several Taurus rentals on business trips. The soft suspension led me to underestimate the car’s handling. Even driving as hard as I dared in an unfamiliar car, I had the feeling on exiting a corner that I could have taken it 10 mph faster.

    During a test drive of an early SHO, I found the transmission impossible to shift quickly. I suspect it would have loosened up in time the way my Infiniti G37S did.

    The later, ovoid models were fugly and the aerodynamics were screwed up. Above 85 mph, they became unstable so that you constantly had to correct for weaving.

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    I rented loads of Taurus sedans during the late 90’s and early 2000’s mostly basic SE or LX models and the vast majority had the clunky bat style column shifter which I always hated. Finding a bucket seat floor shifter rental Taurus was next to impossible.

    Several things always stood out to me. The Taurus transmissions never shifted as well as the GM 4T60/4T65 units in my W-body cars. They were slow and dim witted and the Vulcan 3.0, while being a good durable engine, was a bit noisy and sluggish and never got the mileage that my 3100 and 3800 W-bodies did. They were much slower too, especially on the low end. The seats were fairly comfortable and the 90’s version had sharper handling than the 2000 on up models which felt a little softer and had more numb steering. They were competent highway cruisers but I usually preferred my 1996 Lumina or 1998 Grand Prix more overall due to the better power train combos, sportier interiors with floor shifter/bucket seat combos and the GP handled and steered better.

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