Ford Motor will try to prove on Wednesday that there is life after death for brands, resurrecting its Taurus name just three months after killing what was once North America’s best-selling car.
Mark Fields, head of Ford’s North American operations, is due to announce at the Chicago auto show that the embattled carmaker will give the Taurus name to a redesigned version of its Five Hundred saloon.
The original Taurus epitomised the best and worst of Ford. Launched in the mid-80s, it initially proved that Detroit carmakers could take on Japanese rivals, and win. The Taurus held the number-one sales spot from 1992 to 1997.
But Ford then eviscerated the brand by pumping Tauruses into daily rental and corporate fleets to keep its assembly lines busy.
The last of almost 7m Tauruses rolled off an Atlanta assembly line in October.
Ford is confident that the Taurus name still resonates among many car buyers.
However, it faces a challenge in affixing it to the Five Hundred, a larger car launched in 2004 that has so far fallen short of expectations. Ford sold fewer than half the number of Five Hundreds in January than a year earlier.
Ford is pinning its hopes on a more edgy design and more powerful engine for the 2008 model year, when the Five Hundred will become the Taurus.
The new Five Hundred “is a very nice vehicle,” said Joe Phillippi, an auto industry consultant. But, he added, “I don’t think the Taurus has the brand equity in it that it had seven or eight years ago. It’s a tired offering.”