Sunday, March 3, 2019

End of an era, probably. Last Ford Taurus rolls off the line.

Last Ford Taurus rolls off the line at Chicago Assembly, Friday, March 1, 2019.

     Today's subject is unusual for me, perhaps. The short answer is: someone at the paper asked me to do it. The plan was to actually be at the Chicago Assembly plant when the last Taurus rolled off the line. But Ford wouldn't allow that, despite my pleading. Nor would they allow me to talk to any workers. Nor was the union any help. Still, I had to fill the column SOMEHOW, and all that delightful information about what a lemon the Taurus was when it first was produced was sitting in the open palm of Our Friend History, just waiting for me to pluck it out. I think the story would have turned out shinier, from Ford's point of view, had they let me into the plant, where I've visited in the past. But I think it is also interesting to remember how this American success story struggled at the beginning.

     All good things must come to an end, and Ford Motor Company's good thing, the Taurus sedan, came to its end Friday as the last of what was once the most popular automobile in America rolled off the Chicago Assembly Plant.
     "Taurus broke new ground at its start and we're thankful for its role in our portfolio," said Mark LaNeve, Ford's vice president for U.S. marketing, sales and service.
     That's one way to put it. What the Taurus did at the start, when the new 1986 model was introduced, was stumble out of the blocks, badly. An innovative car — the first vehicle Ford with front-wheel drive — "the latest in Ford engineering and design" was initially plagued by problems.
     A week after it debuted, 4,500 Tauruses and Sables — its twin sister under the Mercury nameplate — had to be recalled due to faulty ignition switches. More recalls followed to replace window glass, which had a tendency to shatter. Followed by problems with surging and stalling engines. And transmission troubles. Not to forget a smell of rotten eggs that took Ford months to solve.
     In all, 80 percent of buyers of new Tauruses and Sables reported significant problems, J.P. Powers & Associates reported at the time. One owner, picking his Taurus up from having its power steering fixed at the dealer, had the transmission fail on the drive home.

      Yet the flagship survived its difficult birth, for a variety of reasons. First, the car just looked cool. Based on the Sierra, introduced in Europe in 1982 — some called it a "spaceship" — the Taurus seems futuristic, with headlights and fenders flush into the body and a sleek, aerodynamic look — to see how radical it was, compare it to the sharp corners of the Ford Granada, the car it replaced. The       Taurus' look won the car a starring role as a Detroit police cruiser in "RoboCop" (the story is that the police car designed for the movie drew guffaws of derision on the set, and director Paul Verhoeven was just starting to panic when he saw a new Taurus drive by).

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  1. What were they afraid of that they wouldn't let you talk to any one?

  2. No surprise that Toyota bested it in sales.

  3. Removing the Taurus from production in 2007 may have been a manufactured mistake, meant to revive interest in a stagnant market, similar to how Coke used the New Coke lie to rile up it's customer base.
    In 2005, Ford began manufacturing the 500, which practically nobody bought. In 2008, after a year of denying consumers the Taurus, Ford slapped the Taurus nameplate on the 500, and, suddenly, all was right with the world. The car itself didn't change but that damned 500 was gone and the beloved Taurus was back.

  4. The closing of the Ford Plant would have destroyed the Southeast side and the surrounding suburbs.
    Happy that Ford decided to make the investment.

    1. At least the Chicago facility will survive. Closing it would most definitely have destroyed that area. Ask the man who knows: I live about an hour west of Lordstown, OH, where the huge Chevy Assembly Plant is...or make that WAS, as of this past Friday (March 1). Many different models rolled out off that line over the last half-century...the latest one being the Chevy Cruze. The Lordstown facility went from three shifts (24/7) to two shifts, to weekends idle, finally to one shift. And then there were none.

      That whole corner of extreme northeast Ohio, near the PA line, has been's like they dropped a neutron bomb. The infrastructure survives, but the people are eliminated. Oh yeah, they did offer transfers to some workers, probably thanks to the UAW. But there are tales of husbands being offered jobs in Tennessee while the wives get the chance to move to upstate New York. Corporate arrogance at its worst. People are merely pawns in an enormous chess game.

      How the hell can they get away with that sort of thing? Perhaps it was too many union ex-Democrats switching to the GOP at election time. Now they are paying the price for their shortsightedness. That whole area will never be the same. Neither will the lives of those ex-Chevy workers.

  5. You only gave this glancing mention, but Ford is phasing out the Taurus in favor of more SUVs. AKA a blight upon American roads. I HATE those goddamned things. They guzzle gas, hog the road, block the view of drivers of regular cars, and make parking a nightmare.

    If President Stable Genius tweets the wrong thing and oil prices go shooting up again, the population of SUVs means America will be totally screwed.

  6. '99 Taurus here. Replaced jem module 1 yr ago and now doing the same crap. No headlights, no heat, no turn signals, and it cost me $250.00 for the jem mod. at a JUNK YARD, no make jem modules anymore. $475.00 all totalled and now to do all over again. Id like to meet the pos engineer that designed this pile of shit. Id whip his ass right now. Great motor, its the electrical thats all F'd up.


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