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PARALLEL UNIVERSE: Ford Pulls an ‘Oldsmobile’ and Cancels Once Popular Ford Taurus, Mercury Sable

Posted by kinchendavid on October 22, 2006

By David M. Kinchen
Editor, Huntington News Network

Hinton, WV – The vast profusion (pro-Fusion?) of model names from Ford Motor Co. has me completely con-Fused – Has anybody figured out the reason for naming a car The Five Hundred? – and now the Dearborn, MI-based firm is killing a car that saved it from bankruptcy, the Ford Taurus.

The last Ford Taurus – and its stable mate, the Mercury Sable – will be produced this week at the Ford plant in Hapeville, GA, near Atlanta. Frankly, I thought the company had already quietly canceled the car, with the introduction a few years ago of the Five Hundred, the Freestyle and the Fusion. As I said, the con-Fusion is monumental at FoMoCo, with all those model names!

According to Wikipedia, the “Taurus was ultimately replaced by three cars, each aimed at better covering the markets that the Taurus had competed in: The Ford Five Hundred, a large car; its crossover SUV version, the Ford Freestyle, to replace the Taurus Wagon; and the Ford Fusion, a midsize car closer in size to the Taurus.”

Despite this explanation, I’m still con-Fused! Maybe I should Focus (another Ford model) more!

When the Taurus and Sable were introduced in December 1985 as 1986 models, I was living in car-crazy Los Angeles. With their European-looking styling, I figured the cars would win back some defectors to Audi and Saab and other Euro-Front-drive cars. It worked: Ford sold 7 million Tauruses (Tauri?) and 2 million or so Sables in the production run, a record the company should be proud of. Ford even sold a lot of cars in California, where foreign nameplates are very popular.

I think the beginning of the end was about 10 years ago, with the extreme jellybean redesign of the original substantial-looking1986-1991 first generation cars. The new jellybean look made the cars look smaller than they were, although they were supposedly the same size.

I thought the original design captured the spirit of Volkswagen’s Audi, with fewer reliability problems than the German front-drive machine. With the exception of troublesome transmissions, the Taurus and Sable delivered the goods in a reliable fashion. Craig Hammond, a contributor to this site and a Bluefield, WV radio talk show host, loves his Taurus station wagon, which also had a transmission replacement.

The Associated Press story on the demise of the famous brand name quotes Rhode Island lawyer Frank Ribezzo, who’s selling his third Taurus, a 1997 version, for $950. It’s got 210,000 miles, about what I have on my 1994 Dodge Caravan which I will never sell. Ribezzo knows how to make his cars last: The first two accumulated more than 220,000 miles. He must drive all over the East Coast: Rhode Island is about the size of Greenbrier and Summers counties combined!

How did the Taurus get its name, you ask? Again, according to Wikipedia, “the Taurus was named by Lewis Veraldi (the ‘father’ of the Taurus team concept) and his chief planner, John Risk, each of whose wives were born under the astrological sign of the bull.” It’s the second sign of the Zodiac, for those born between April 20 and May 20.

Just as my Caravan and its stable mate the Plymouth Voyager were milestones for the American car industry when they were introduced by Lee Iacocca (a Libra, born Oct. 15, 1924, who was fired by Ford and went on to save Chrysler from bankruptcy) back in the fall of 1983, so was the Taurus a trendsetter for both Ford and the American auto industry.

It made front-wheel drive cars popular with the masses — even though both GM and Chrysler had been making them for several years prior to the 1985 introduction of the Taurus/Sable line.

So shed a tear for the Ford Taurus and Mercury Sable. (And other discontinued brand names like Oldsmobile and Plymouth).

If you want economical, paid-in-full transportation, you might want to follow the example of that Little Rhody lawyer and buy a clean sample of either car. You’ll be free from those pesky monthly payments – and your auto insurance bill will be less because you won’t need collision coverage.

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