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Can Taurus tilt buyers toward more expensive Fords?

Posted by Clifford Atiyeh  August 20, 2009 09:55 AM

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(Clifford Atiyeh/Boston.com)

A Taurus SHO, foreground, and SEL attract attention by the Government Center T stop.

As the first 2010 Taurus models enter dealerships this month, Ford's traveling street team of executives and marketers are visiting cities across America with brochures and new cars for passersby to sit in, touch, and start up.

Sure, they twittered and facebooked a group of select Boston bloggers into their cars the night before, but Wednesday's event outside the Government Center T stop - a pair of white Taurus sedans and a few vinyl signs - was decidedly low-key.

Perhaps Ford thought GM's torture campaign a few years back, which convinced Boston University students they might win a Chevy Aveo by living in it for five days, was a bad idea. Or that mounting giant Red Bull cans on a Taurus would destroy the car's upscale image, even though those snarky Mini people get away scot-free with those gimmicks. And the Taurus, which starts at $25,000 and can top $40,000 on the 365-horsepower SHO, is a big, grown-up sedan that's far beyond the budgets of most college students.

There's lots to be done before Ford enters the consciousness of a prospective Audi or Lexus buyer, but the Taurus, simply by showing up in public, is moving this idea along.

"It takes a long time. Our guys tell us you have to have a few hundred thousand on the road before people say that they've seen them," said David Leitch, a Ford vice president and deputy counsel to former President George W. Bush, at City Hall Plaza.

Leitch wouldn't share the company's sales projections, but said the Taurus is competing in a large sedan segment that's roughly 800,000 cars per year. Its most direct domestic competitor is certainly the Buick LaCrosse, also significantly redone for 2010. Cadillac's smaller CTS is a contender at the upper end of the Taurus price range; if not for size, the CTS has earned its cred in vehicle dynamics and performance.

"If you look at Esquire, [which] named it car of the year, they compared it to an Audi A6 and a BMW 5 Series, so we're happy to be in that kind of company," Leitch said.

Just three years ago, when the original Taurus ended production after being restricted to fleet sales - an embarrassing end to what once was America's best-selling passenger car - Ford's newfound confidence against the premium imports would have been laughable. The company is in decent shape to brag, since it doesn't have to repay billions in government loans, and builds two of the most popular new cars bought under the controversial Cash for Clunkers program, the Focus and Escape, which saw 44 and 94 percent jumps in July sales, respectively.

Yet Ford's luxury heel-biting puts the company's Lincoln MKS in a quandary. If the Taurus website pits the Blue Oval against the Infiniti M45, Audi A6 4.2, and even a Lexus LS 460, what's Lincoln doing with a car that's built on the same platform, with the same engines and similar equipment, but costs more? The Mercury Sable has been discontinued this year for just that reason.

Average new car transactions now crest $26,000, according to a recent study by Comerica Bank, so there's nothing unreasonable about the price. But will Americans pay this much for a nameplate with a notoriously low residual value? With more and more higher-end Fords arriving from Europe, they may finally feel justified to do so.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
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35 comments so far...
  1. I think its a beautiful car. My family bought Taurus after Sable after Sable for years, and they were always supremely reliable, comfortable, and well constructed. My first car was a top-of-the-line 1996 Sable staion wagon; I drove it up to 140,000 miles, and sold it for $2,000! It good to see the Blue Oval bragging about its financial stability, and superior engineering. While it might not truly be a competitor against an A6 or 535i, it definitely competes against more luxury-oriented big cars like the LS460 or Acura TL.

    Posted by Mark D. August 20, 09 11:53 AM
  1. Yet another automatic-only American car that thinks it can take on Audi/BMW. They just don't get it.

    I compared a previous-generation Taurus to a BMW several years ago. In true cost to own - including depreciation, cost of gas, maintenance, and insurance - the Taurus was only $12 cheaper over a three-year period. For an extra $12 I think most people would pick the BMW.

    Posted by Chris August 20, 09 12:44 PM
  1. I loved the older Taurus, owned at least 3 of them. But the price tag on this one was too much, so I now have a Camry. So far, it seems quite comparable.

    Posted by MS August 20, 09 01:11 PM
  1. chris, the previous gen taurus had no business being compared to any bmw, so i'm not sure why one would do that. while it was a solid getting-around car, it by no means exuded luxury.

    i have high hopes for this taurus in that awkward, full size near-luxury segment: honda accord is now technically there; toyota avalon, nissan maxima. the SHO is just a performance version that the others don't have, that's why the price is higher; most will opt for the more "normal" V6.

    Posted by frankazzurro August 20, 09 02:28 PM
  1. Chris I wouldn't touch a BMW. All my friends dumped them because of the cost of repairs. $175 for a new tire on a BMW 3 series? No thanks.

    Posted by fred quimby August 20, 09 03:09 PM
  1. I'm glad to see Ford take advantage of that beautiful Interceptor concept a few years back. At least they kept the rear end look. I would still love to see a 'concept to production' version of that show car as the new Crown Vic.

    The new Taurus is very interesting. The exterior and interior somehow is both classy and sporty depending on how you are looking at it. Well done.

    Posted by Andy August 20, 09 03:17 PM
  1. How STUPID was it to retire the Taurus - a very well-known car which had gone toe-to-toe with the Camry and Accord in sales for years - and replace it with a lame car with a lame name like the "500"????

    At least they wised up and brought the car back.

    Posted by David August 20, 09 03:42 PM
  1. I love the way they are pricing their cars out of the reach of most folks. I have a real problem paying 25K+ for a Ford sedan (or for any manufacturer's sedan for that matter).

    Posted by Jim August 20, 09 04:37 PM
  1. Wow, beautiful car! If I hadn't just gotten a new Ford Edge a year ago, I would definitely be looking at this one!

    Posted by Ann August 20, 09 05:47 PM
  1. It definitely competes against more luxury-oriented big cars like the LS460 or Acura TL?
    So that means i can go Hertz or Avis and rent a LS460 or Acura TL instead of
    the Ford Taurus.

    Posted by johnny August 20, 09 05:47 PM
  1. The new Taurus is a very well done car and I applaud Ford for a job well done but it seems perhaps to be too well done.

    The Taurus should not compete with a Buick and certianly not any Audi. The Taurus should be targeting the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry.

    As I understand it, the Taurus SHO is a $40,000.+ car which makes it a bit too upscale and high-priced to be a Ford and it is virtually identical content-wise to FoMoCo's own Lincoln MKS which sells for only slightly more.

    The Taurus appears to be a great product but from a marketing standpoint, it could be akin to Volkswagen's $60,000 Phaeton which was a well executed car held back in the marketplace by the VW badge on the hood that consumers associated with an entry-level product.

    Posted by Ci2Eye August 20, 09 05:58 PM
  1. Keep in mind that the ONLY way you'll spend $40k on a Taurus is if you purchase the SHO version, which is the twin-turbo (yes, TWIN-TURBO!!) 365-horsepower performance version. $40k for something like that is well within reason -- a friend of mine paid $51k for a 335hp M45 three years ago.

    I like what Ford is doing with the Taurus. They upgraded the looks, offered a performance version, and are limiting production (you won't see many of them at the rental agencies), which should help the resale value. I think $25k for a reasonably well-equipped version is a solid value.

    And remember, Ford TURNED DOWN TARP funds from BarryO and his cash-givin'-fools from DC. I respect that, and wish Ford continued success.

    Posted by The Ultimate Authority August 20, 09 08:39 PM
  1. uh buy an american car? what are you nuts, did once never again, oh by the way I have a Honda Element and a new tire on that costs about 200, so 175 for a BMW tire aint so bad

    Posted by The Man August 20, 09 10:30 PM
  1. Chris, For the same reason Toyota does not make a standard shift Camry, Ford does not make a standard basic Taurus. Must be hreat fun running a 4 or 5 speed on the South East Exway each day!

    Posted by teddyballgame August 21, 09 08:35 AM
  1. $200 for a Honda Element tire? I have an Element and I replaced them with top of the line Goodyears that are great for $240 for all four! I also had a 1996 Taurus. It's one of the reasons I moved to Honda.

    Posted by Rick G August 21, 09 11:29 AM
  1. Never. Never. Never buy American made cars. They are crap. They will not out last or out sell Japanese imports no matter what they do. Right now with the economy they are in good standing, but give it another year or two and they will start cranking out the crap cars again. They are too big, with to many models to compete. And having owned an Infitinit M, Honda Pilot and Accord, A Nissan Maxima, and a current toyota owner, I can tell you that the American cars don't hold a candle.

    Okay so let's talk about this for real. What is the Lincoln MKZ? It is an old Mercury Zephyr (and if you remember the MKZ originally came out as the Lincoln Zephyr) with a much higher sticker price. Those of us who may have owned the original Mercury Zephyr remember the piece of junk it really was and it was a copy of the "K" car with another name (hence my point above too many of the same models, different names, can't compete). So they put a big fat sticker price on it and shoved on the Lincoln Name plate and expected people to buy it. Only people didn't want the Zephyr tin can crap of 20 years ago that left a sour taste in their mouth. So as Ford does, they did a bait and switch and gave you the same crap car with a different name MKZ!!!

    Wise up consumers. Use your brains and do your research. A car is a long term investment. Spend your money wisely and stop funding car companies that think you are fools by trying to sell you a remake with a new name.

    So let's cut to the chase here. FORD needs to for get about it. It will will always be Fix Or Repair Daily and Found On Road Dead car company. They can change the wrapper and give it a big name, but under the hood it is still cheaply made and will break down at least once before 25k (with regular servicing).

    The new Taurus will be no exception. Put it in a pretty package and give it no substance. Sorry, I am not convinced.

    Posted by Patyr August 21, 09 12:08 PM
  1. I have always liked the Taurus and figured they were doing something right by sticking with a winner and revising it slightly for improvements. That is what Honda and Toyota do with the accord and Camry. If Ford could only stick to the mid-level design. Fords comparison to the civic or corolla has been...escort>tempo>contour>focus and anyone who bought one new will not candy coat the true cost of ownership through service visits and resale.

    Posted by Anonymous August 21, 09 01:29 PM
  1. "Chris I wouldn't touch a BMW. All my friends dumped them because of the cost of repairs. $175 for a new tire on a BMW 3 series? No thanks."

    How is the cost of a TIRE related to the manufacturer of the CAR???

    And, any BMW costs $0 in maintenance for four years. How is that expensive? How much cheaper than ZERO do you want??

    Posted by Chris August 21, 09 01:37 PM
  1. The cars in City Hall Plaza were silver, btw.

    Posted by Paul August 21, 09 04:43 PM
  1. I wish Ford all the success in the world with this new car. Hopefully it repeats the success they had with the original Taurus back in the mid-80s and gives them a solid competitor to the Camry and Accord. Personally I prefer the German brands when it comes to automobiles but do look to Ford when it comes time for a pick-up truck.

    Posted by Ted August 21, 09 10:28 PM
  1. I owned two SHO's and loved them both! An SHO is not a Taurus; it's a lot more! And back then they easily embarrassed BMWs at on-track rallies. You gotta love going faster than a Mustang GT but with five passengers, room for their luggage (!), and being able to get up the driveway in the winter with AWD or taking an icy off-ramp at full speed.

    My only question is, what self-respecting former SHO owner who has been waiting for years to buy his third one, would buy one that looks just like a CAMRY?!?!?! What SHO owner wants a car that looks as lame as Camry actually is????

    Posted by Fred Williamson August 22, 09 08:32 AM
  1. Ford's mistake here was releasing a totally brand-new vehicle and recycling a name that people associate with "rental car" and "boring".

    Had they named it something more in tune with the times (two or three alphanumerics for instance) about 90% of the comments on this board wouldn't even exist.

    Posted by Rocketansky August 22, 09 09:58 AM
  1. I agree that Ford shouldn't have recycled the name, and "upscaled" the car so much. While I loved my old Taurus wagon (I drove it for 7 years and was a high-end version with sunroof, leather seats, etc.), I wish Ford kept the new ones affordable. I'm not going to go out and pay 25K (and up) for one, with the resale value so low. They should have brought the Taurus back to compete with the small minivans, Camrys etc., and brought out the one with all the bells and whistles under a new name. It's like the old Natick Mall, turned into the Natick Collection: no one wanted it, and I think they're in bankruptcy (or close to it). BTW, they do make Camrys with a standard transmission – I test drove one – but 6-speeds is a bit overkill for a small car, and I thought that the interior was a bit cheap compared to my old '86 Camry. So I won't be buying one of those soon either... I just wish SOMEONE would make a decent station wagon that's not as small as the Subarus.

    Posted by HelenL August 22, 09 05:27 PM
  1. @Patyr: The Mercury Zephyr has no relationship whatsoever to the Lincoln Zephyr, aside from their parent company. The Mercury was a rear-drive clone of the Ford Fairmont, not of the front-wheel drive Chrysler K-Car, which was released 3 years later. The Lincoln Zephyr (now MKZ) is a tarted-up version of the Ford Fusion which, incidentally, is rated as one of the most reliable cars by both Consumer Reports and JD Power.

    Try doing a little research before deciding "domestic = bad, import = good." There are plenty of good and bad cars that come from every corner of the world.

    Posted by pb87 August 23, 09 05:03 AM
  1. Never buy America????!!! You people wonder why so many people are out of work and all of the monies are going to Japan. Yes, some of these cars are built here but the profits still go there. I don't know but if we start buying more American products maybe, just maybe we may get more men and women back to work and the economy turned around. That being said, I love my Taurus!

    Posted by wakeupandsmellthecoffee August 23, 09 06:48 AM
  1. By the way, you'll never pay $40k for one. You can get Fords for 20% off sticker in the best of times, and 25% off sticker at the end of the year. I'm guessing even larger discounts today.

    Don't be afraid of those stickers. You can't get discounts worth talking about on Japanese cars but you always can at Ford.

    They will sell a million of these SHOs loaded up with options for a $28.9k 'sale price'. Ignore the sticker.

    Posted by Fred Williamson August 23, 09 08:59 AM
  1. Quality is job one at Ford, I bought TWO (2) brand new 2007 fusions and have had no warranty visits for either. Lets get down to basics on quality, its perception that toyota or Honda or BMW have a higher standard. Defects per million is what counts and Fords SixSigma program is in full force. Let compare the out years (over 5) of cost for a Ford vs the other brands. BMW, $2K for a brake job, 1K for a full blown tune-up, repair its fuel injection system go to the bank for a small personal loan. And buy the way the twin turbo MKS is over $53K compared to a SHO.

    Posted by Anonymous August 23, 09 11:42 AM
  1. Quality is job one at Ford, I bought TWO (2) brand new 2007 fusions and have had no warranty visits for either. Lets get down to basics on quality, its perception that toyota or Honda or BMW have a higher standard. Defects per million is what counts and Fords SixSigma program is in full force. Let compare the out years (over 5) of cost for a Ford vs the other brands. BMW, $2K for a brake job, 1K for a full blown tune-up, repair its fuel injection system go to the bank for a small personal loan. And buy the way the twin turbo MKS is over $53K compared to a SHO.

    Posted by bob August 23, 09 11:43 AM
  1. I think the SHO is a great idea, why not? I own a 2008 Impala SS, it is the top of the line Impala, with a big and powerful V8. I knew getting into it that gas mileage would suffer, but I don't care it's a fun car to drive. I have always been a Ford fan, but purchased my first GM Product last year, and next year I'll be ready for a new car. I will look into the SHO, twin turbos, 365HP, and 4 doors, oh baby!!!! I just wish they had a 6 speed manual option.

    Posted by Torrey August 23, 09 05:58 PM
  1. I owned two SHO's in the 90's and they were comparable to the BMW 325i's. However, I bought a 98 BMW M3 and it is the the best I have ever owned. I still have it and I drive it year round. I have 120K and over a hundred track days on it (I am an instructor for the BMW and Porsche clubs). I don't know where Bob got $2K for a brake job because I do racing brake parts for less than $1K in parts. The Taurus was moved up scale because the Fusion competes with Accord and Camry these days. I wish Ford luck with this product but I'll stay with BMW.

    Posted by George August 23, 09 06:40 PM
  1. I too feel that some foreign cars are better then American made. I own 4 cars, all made in the good old USA.
    So why do I drive American made instead of foreign? Because I care about my country. If you are unemployed and are trying to figure out how to pay for your foreign car, try looking in the mirror.
    So go right ahead and continue to feed into the trade imbalance, love your little cars and get ready for 50% taxes on your paychecks. How else do you think they are going to pay down this debt with few products made here?

    Posted by dave August 23, 09 07:37 PM
  1. The car does appear to have a nice body but who has a ugly car these days. I am all for buying American cars but Ford and the other American manufactures will need to spend a few years in the fire with great quality before the average buyer will reconsider them. Why because most of us had American cars with some issues in the past where we the consumer have been burned. The problem with this car directly I do not want to buy a car for over forty grand and have a guy next to me at a stop light have the exact same looking car that he spent twenty-five on it ruins any prestige the car might have.

    Posted by Glenn August 24, 09 11:07 AM
  1. The Ford Taurus that we had used to turn the headlights on and off by itself even when the car was turned off and the key was in the house, had an air conditioning unit that shot coolant into the drivers' eyes while the car was running, turned the inside cabin lights on by itself and would never turn them off. It also had a variety of engine problems. We took this to a variety of Ford dealers over a dozen times before we finally gave up, bought a European car with 80k miles on it that we finally and sadly traded in two months ago with 260k miles on it for another European car. Ford trucks are good and I would encourage anyone to buy those. Ford cars, based on our experience with the Taurus and a mystique are absolute junk and I wouldn't encourage anyone to buy one of those,

    Posted by someonewhoknows August 25, 09 07:21 AM
  1. Ci2Eye said: "The Taurus should be targeting the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry. "

    C, the Ford Fusion was created to compete in that mid size sedan sector. It is also well regarded.

    Posted by Scubatankman August 30, 09 09:19 AM
  1. So far from what I've seen given I got one for a rental this weekend, this car is an improvement over the cheap-feeling Tauruses of old on the interior and significantly better looking on the outside. BUT it's still plagued by the same problem I've had with Ford engines for years - that is, their engines are way underpowered for HP ratings they espouse them to be. They may advertise they're 260 HP, but if feels like you're driving a 175HP car and it can't get out it's own way.

    And while better looking, it's still not good enough for me to consider it a lower-end luxury car. Kudos to Ford for making improvements in quality too, but they still have a ways to go, just like GM. Not to mention, I'm not going to spend upwards of $30K for a Ford - for that kind of money I'd buy an Infiniti, Nissan, Lexus or Acura, which are much better in ride, comfort, fit/finish and most importantly quality and resale value. Heck, my Altima is still leagues better than the Taurus can hope to be, especially in the engine dept...it just plain puts the Taurus to shame!

    Posted by nhmtnbkr August 31, 09 11:17 AM
 

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Clifford Atiyeh is an automotive writer and car enthusiast . He has spent his entire life driving cars he doesn't own.
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