The Ford Taurus is the car of my youth. If you grew up in the '80s and '90s and lived in the Midwest like me, you saw Tauruses all the time, either because your family had one, or your friend's family had one. I can still recall a Taurus parked in the driveways of the houses on the street where I grew up. When I was sixteen, I perfected the art of reverse-180s in my dad's 1994 Taurus - the column shift made it so easy.
With such a recognizable name, Ford can't resist bringing it back to replace the Five Hundred badge that's hanging on the trunk of its large sedan. Ford's hope is that sales will be boosted just by the simple fact that people will recognize the name. Of course, it can't hurt that the car has been heavily updated for 2008, either.
But although people recognize the Taurus name, are they making a positive association with it? Yes, the Taurus was cutting-edge when it debuted in the mid 1980s, but it was never truly spectacular. As time marched forward and competitors caught up and raised the bar, the Taurus became simply competent.
When people say they drive a Mustang, I imagine they're thrill-seeking adrenaline junkies. I conjure images of them performing massive burnouts at every stop light in their good looking muscle car. Likewise, if they drive an F-150, I respect them for choosing a tough, long-lasting truck. They must be hardworking folks who need dependability in their vehicle. I correlate ruggedness with an F-150.
But when someone says they drive a Taurus, I immediately assume they couldn't care less about cars or driving. That was my father's attitude toward his car. He was happy as long as the seat was comfortable, the air conditioning was cold, and it was easy to get in and out of. Certainly, any vehicle that has sold seven million copies must have been purchased and driven by people from all walks of life, but images of active-lifestyle young professionals barreling down mountain roads do not spring to mind.
No, I assume the owners of a Taurus received an employee discount. Maybe rebate cash, too. Maybe it was a hand-me-down vehicle that lasted through the hands of many family members before landing in the parking-challenged teenagers lap. Since their resale value has always been appalling and used examples plentiful, perhaps the current owner picked their Taurus up as a winter beater, parking the "nice" car in the garage for the frosty season.
There's no doubt the Five Hundred is going to make the best "Taurus" ever. It's also going to be the most expensive ever. Are people prepared to pay a high price for a car with the prestige and quality impressions that the Taurus name invokes? It took twenty years for the Taurus name to become recognizable; it may take another twenty for it to be synonymous with quality.