Ford Taurus Enters Extinction As the Last Chevrolet Cruze Trundles Down the Assembly Line

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

Much like in the pre-1985 era and a short spell from 2006-2007, every last one of you woke up this morning in a world without the Ford Taurus. The historic nameplate met its end on Friday at Ford’s Chicago assembly plant, with the automaker choosing to honor the model’s service through a media release.

At the same time, workers at General Motors’ Lordstown Assembly marked a much more solemn occasion. The last Chevrolet Cruze made its way through the plant’s body shop Friday afternoon, and with its completion comes the idling of a plant opened in 1966.

While both nameplates will live on in foreign markets, it’s curtains for U.S. and Canadian supply.

WKBN published photos yesterday of the last Lordstown Cruze, with a union leader telling the publication that final assembly of the sedan should wrap up on Wednesday. The plant turns out the lights on Friday, March 8th.

While GM’s Detroit-Hamtramck facility recently saw a production reprieve, Lordstown Assembly, as well as a Michigan and Maryland transmission plant and Ontario’s Oshawa Assembly, all fell under Mary Barra’s cost-cutting axe. There’s seemingly no hope for the Canadian plant; the other three facilities will be listed as “unallocated.” Whether or not GM returns product to the shuttered facilities remains to be seen.

One thing’s for sure — neither automaker has any intention of replacing the defunct models with a similar passenger car. Workers at Chicago Assembly now switch to assembly of next-generation 2020 Ford Explorers and Lincoln Aviators.

“Taurus broke new ground at its start and we’re thankful for its role in our portfolio,” said Mark LaNeve, Ford vice president, U.S. marketing, sales and service, in a statement. “Those same kinds of innovations will continue for today’s customers with Ford Explorer and the rest of our lineup.”

Since production began in 1985 (for the ’86 model year), more than 8 million Tauruses left Ford plants in the United States. A revolutionary vehicle at birth, the model suffered in the resulting ovoid era, only to find itself a rental darling in the early 2000s. Your author spent an uncomfortable night in a Vulcan-powered example near Baltimore in early 2002 and did not walk away well-rested.

Production ended, for the first time, on October 27, 2006. A year later, Ford slapped the Taurus name on a refreshed version of the former Five Hundred, adding a more powerful V6 engine and a new six-speed automatic in the process. The current-generation model bowed in 2009 for the 2010 model year. With buyers draining from all passenger car segments and law enforcement fleets rapidly shifting to the Police Interceptor Utility, the Taurus quickly became an anachronism. Its death leaves the Fusion as the last Ford sedan in North America.

The Cruze saga is much shorter, though GM did manage to crank out over 2.1 million during its lifetime. Mexico supplemented production, adding the hatchback that bowed with the second-generation model. For a while, the Cruze could be had in two bodystyles, with a choice of manual or automatic transmission and a turbocharged gasoline or diesel powerplant. Don’t expect that kind of choice in your crossover-filled future.

For GM, the Cruze was the right car at the right time. Emerging from the automaker’s bankruptcy against a backdrop of high gas prices and a struggling economy, the Cruze garnered applause for its solid construction — an accolade never bestowed on its Cobalt and Cavalier predecessors. Corrosion resistance was excellent, as was crashworthiness. Materials impressed. The car’s suspension and brakes didn’t completely crap out after a couple of years (in 90k miles, I replaced the front brake pads once and never touched the suspension — it was a durable little thing).

Meanwhile, the uplevel 1,364cc inline-four delivered boffo fuel economy, especially in Eco guise. Your author once managed 55 mpg during a two-hour countryside jaunt in his 2011 Cruze Eco. Suck it, hybrids.

While build quality far surpassed earlier compact Chevys, first-gen model’s 1.4L engine leaked coolant like a spaghetti strainer (water pump, all seals, heater core, etc) and went through PCV valves like it was going out of style. As the owner of a 2018 model, yours truly hopes the redesigned second-gen motor holds no such surprises. (This mechanical fact, sizeable incentives, a generous trade-in price, and the continued perk of high MPGs and copious front-seat legroom, earned GM another sale.)

The consumer is always right, they say. Falling sales left Lordstown operating with a single shift, expediting the plant’s closure, but it’s always sad to see an affordable car shuffle off into history.

As Honda and Toyota (et al) have no plans to abandon the segment, Lordstown’s loss is their gain.

[Images: Ford, General Motors]

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

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