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The last Ford Taurus was built Friday, March 1, at the Chicago Assembly Plant. The sedan had been built in the plant for over 34 years of (nearly) continuous production. The car had also been built (model years 1986 to 2007) at the Ford Atlanta Assembly Plant, which closed in 2006 and has been razed by a developer for things of a less-productive nature.
The end of the Taurus in Chicago won’t have such dire consequences for the factory. In fact, last month the company announced it is investing $1-billion in the Chicago Assembly and adjacent Chicago Stamping plants to expand the capacity of Ford Explorer production, as well as the Police Interceptor Utility and the Lincoln Aviator.
The assembly plant is getting a new body shop and a new paint shop; the stamping plant is getting a new stamping line. The company projects that this will add some 500 jobs to the sites, thereby brining total employment to some 5,800 people.
It is hard to over estimate the importance of the original Ford Taurus, a car that was introduced as a 1986 model when it was unveiled at the 1985 Los Angeles Auto Show.
Today it is difficult to look at that original Taurus and see it as a sedan with an absolutely revolutionary design—something that was unthinkable for the period (e.g., “Where’s the grille?”)—the Taurus gained traction in the market in a way that left its competitors trying to play catch-up.
Today when you think of sedans, it is probably a Camry or an Accord, given the regularly massive sales numbers those two vehicles (or the Corolla and Civic) rack up.
Yet in 1992 the Taurus was the best-selling car.
In its run, more than eight million Tauruses were built in Chicago.
When introduced at the 1985 Los Angeles Auto Show, Taurus represented the latest in Ford engineering and design, developed to meet shifting consumer needs. Its sleek looks were a departure from the boxy sedan shapes of the time, setting a new bar in passenger cars. Its 140-horsepower 3.0-liter V6 engine featured multi-port fuel injection.
Taurus continued to evolve with the addition of the SHO model in 1989, which came equipped with a 220-horsepower high-performance V6.
By 1992, Taurus had become America’s best-selling car.
But things change with time.
About that “(nearly) continuous production.” Taurus production ended in Chicago in 2004 and in Atlanta in 2006. The sedan that Ford replaced the Taurus with was the Five Hundred. And it added the Fusion to the lineup. And there was the station-wagon-like Freestyle. (Some people explained the naming methodology as using an initial “F” for Ford products.)
Alan Mullaly came to Dearborn in late 2006 and asked the obvious question, which was, in effect, “The Taurus was the vehicle that helped put Ford in a solid space; it was a well-recognized nameplate, and while it may not have been as innovative over the years as it started out as being, why not use the name to advantage?”
So in 2007, the model year Five Hundred became the Taurus and the Freestyle became the Taurus X.
But now the Taurus is done.
Several years back, one of the authors visited a major North American assembly plant engaged in the launch of a new vehicle program. A "ramp-up" schedule was prominently displayed on a bulletin board deep in the heart of the plant. The schedule indicated that the day of the visit was the same day the plant was originally planned to achieve full capacity production of its new product. Yet the plant was actually producing only a few units an hour! The assembly plant's tardiness is certainly not uncommon, but did contribute to our interest in the wide range in vehicle launch performance across major vehicle firms.
Paul Spadafora, chief engineer, Cadillac XT5, had, in his estimation, a fantastic opportunity as he and his team set about to develop Cadillac’s all-new midsize crossover vehicle for a number of reasons, one of which is the simple fact that this is one of the hottest segments going in the auto industry, so if you want to be in the game, you have to play hard against the likes of the Audi Q5 and the Mercedes GLE-Class.
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