The car's 21-year run notches almost 6.7 million in sales when it halts
production in '06.
By Eric Mayne / The Detroit News
The last Ford Taurus will roll off the assembly line in the first three
months of 2006, ending a 21-year run that has racked up nearly 6.7
million total U.S. sales.
The news was relayed to employees at Ford Motor Co.'s Atlanta plant in
an April newsletter distributed by United Auto Workers Local 882.
With its jellybean shape, the debut 1986 model helped revolutionize
American car design and pull Ford out of a financial tailspin. By 1992,
it was the country's best-selling car -- a title it held for five
But in recent years, as sales have waned, Ford has been pushing the
Taurus out of its retail lineup and into the fleets of rental car
companies. It is being replaced in dealer showrooms by the Ford Fusion,
which debuts this fall.
The end of Taurus production robs Ford's Atlanta assembly plant of its
last product. Production of the Mercury Sable, a Taurus twin, ends this
month -- and no new product has been earmarked for the plant, which
opened in 1947 and employs nearly 2,000 hourly workers.
"We all know the plans are to stop running the Taurus during the first
quarter or 2006," the UAW bulletin said. "Get yourself in a good
financial situation and prepare yourself for the worst-case scenario. We
are doing all we can."
Ford would not confirm when Taurus production will end and declined
comment on Atlanta's future.
Widespread speculation has the automaker updating the site by installing
its flexible manufacturing system.
Ford has said it wants up to 75 percent of its North American assembly
sites to feature flexible manufacturing capability by the end of the
Already installed in locations such as Dearborn and Kansas City, the
system enables simultaneous production of several different products
based on two or three basic designs. This saves time and money during
Speculation about Atlanta has centered on production of a sport wagon
and a pair of Lincoln cars based on the underpinnings of the Ford Five
Ford began production of the Five Hundred in Chicago last year after the
plant stopped building the Taurus and Sable.
The automaker installed flexible manufacturing technology at Chicago
where workers build the Mercury Montego sedan and Ford Freestyle
crossover vehicle on the same line as the Five Hundred.
Ford has been discussing future investment in Atlanta with officials in
News that the Taurus era is nearing an end was met by mixed reaction.
"It was a good car," said Mike Sereni, general manager of Jorgensen Ford
in Detroit. "It still is. People still like it."
While most units are sold to rental car companies, it remains available
as a retail offering. More streamlined than its predecessors, the 2005
model is on pace to record just under 187,000 sales for the year.
Where will Taurus buyers go? Sereni said they will migrate to the
Fusion, while Taurus owners who are looking to move upscale are more
likely to buy the larger Five Hundred.
"We'll be able to satisfy both ends of the market," he added.
The Fusion will share its underpinnings with two other 2006 products --
the Mercury Milan and Lincoln Zephyr. All three will be built in Mexico.
The original Taurus, with its rounded corners, was a stark contrast to
the sharp-edged designs of competitive products. Workers at Ford's
assembly plant in Chicago were so shocked they thought their jobs were
"I remember when that came out," said Bryon Fitzpatrick, chairman of
transpiration design at Detroit's College for Creative Studies. "It was
a real departure for an American car with all that oval shaping. I found
But the look captured the public's imagination and Ford humbled
competitors such as Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co. The Japanese
automakers had begun to dominate the midsize car segment.
"In some respects, you could almost characterize it as a car that helped
save the company," said Joe Phillippi, principal of New Jersey-based
Auto Trends Consulting Inc. "It was certainly considered revolutionary
at the time. It was exactly what Ford needed."
In 1989, Ford spiced things up by launching the Taurus SHO -- short for
Super High Output.
"In the glory days, it had quite a loyal following," said Brent Kanon,
owner of Denver-based Pro Street Performance -- formerly I'll SHO U
Few people will remember Taurus fondly, said Kanon and Fitzpatrick. But
Sereni disagrees, adding the car has numbers on its side.
"There will always be a sense of nostalgia about that car because there
have been so many generations of buyers," he said.
You can reach Eric Mayne at (313) 222-2443 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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