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Jim Burt/TCC Daily Edition 11/21/02

Ford is trying to rekindle interest in its Taurus sedan with its first national TV campaign in two years, and also trying convince anyone who will listen that the car is not being mothballed.

“A lot of people seem to think we are letting the car die on the vine, and that’s not the case at all,” said Ford spokesman Jim Cain. Ford breaks a TV and print campaign for Taurus Friday.

The Taurus created a design revolution in 1986 when it was first introduced. Its jellybean shape made the flying bricks of the 1970s look out of date in a hurry. And Taurus led the U.S. in sales for five straight years ending in 1996.

The 1996 makeover of the Taurus, though, was the beginning of the end of its leadership. The proliferation of ovals and curves was too fancy for the old-line Taurus loyalists, and too ugly for younger buyers cross shopping Camrys and Accords. The car was remade for 2000 with new exterior panels and a freshened interior, with decent results. Ford will sell over 300,000 Tauruses this year, but half of those or more will be fleet sales to rental companies and corporate customers.

“The car has become identified as a fleet car and when that happens, the retail business and the residuals suffer,” says Texas dealer Jerry Reynolds. A 2000 Taurus, for example, will bring less than $10,000 on the used market, according to Edmunds.com.

An average Taurus this month before customer cash costs about $19,500, according to J.D. Power and Associates. It has about $2,300 in customer cash incentives.

The Taurus is also one of Ford’s highest quality passenger cars, scoring close to the industry average on Power Initial Quality Survey.

“It still represents a great value, and there are a lot of people who won’t buy anything else, because of that,” says Reynolds.

Many of those people are older folks. The average age of Taurus buyers has gone from 49 to 52 in just two years. And the car sells best when it has zero-percent financing and other spiffs, such as a free leather interior.

After the Chicago Taurus plant is converted to Ford Five Hundred and Freestyle production, Ford will continue to build the current Taurus in Atlanta. It will maintain the Taurus’ more than 50 percent fleet business, turning the vehicle into a “value” model for people who are loyal to Ford and don’t need the latest thing.

Ford chief operating officer Nick Scheele recently compared the Taurus strategy with that of the Crown Victoria. Ford won’t remake it, but rather will just keep tweaking improvements and sell it as long as it turns a profit. Chevrolet is said to be pursuing a similar strategy with the current Malibu, which becomes the fleet-geared Classic in 2004 when a new Malibu bows.
 

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Ford Division is launching its first national Ford Taurus advertising campaign in three years to showcase the many improvements engineered into the 2003 model, including new interior packages and a quieter cabin.
The campaign, which will include television, national magazine and Internet placements, invites consumers who haven’t looked closely at Taurus to “look again.”
 

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Taurus gets first national advertising campaign in 2 years


By Julie Cantwell
Automotive News / November 25, 2002

Dispelling the rumor that the Taurus will be killed after the 2006 model year, one Ford Motor Co. executive says the car will be built into at least the 2007 calendar year.

"It's safe to say it will be around beyond 2006," said Chris Roe, Taurus and Crown Victoria marketing manager.

Ford Motor on Nov. 16 launched its first national advertising for the Taurus since 2000, when it promoted the car's last redesign.

The estimated $25 million yearlong campaign by J. Walter Thompson in Detroit incorporates one 30-second TV commercial, two print ads and various Web advertising for Ford's division's best-selling car.

"Shame on us, to a degree, because with all the products we do advertise and promote, sometimes one of the children gets lost in the mix, and I think that's happened to Taurus," said Steve Lyons, Ford Division president.

Because of the national campaign, the regional Taurus marketing budgets have been cut by more than half, said Joe Castelli, Ford Division's car marketing manager.

Ford's regions spent $5.4 million on Taurus-only advertising for the first six months of this year, according to Competitive Media Reporting in New York. But Ralph Seekins, chairman of the Ford Division National Dealer Council, said he's not too worried about the regional cut.

"I'd rather have a national program, and I appreciate that they're doing it now," said Seekins, owner of Seekins Ford-Lincoln-Mercury in Fairbanks, Alaska. "Because there's so much fleet application, some people look past it (the Taurus). It's a wise move to concentrate on the retail market."

Lyons quashed another rumor that the mid-sized car would be sold as fleet only. Since at least 1997, about half of Taurus sales have been fleet.

"There is no plan whatsoever to make this car solely fleet," he said, adding that the company plans to maintain the 50-50 mix of retail and fleet sales.

The new campaign targets married couples, 35-54 years old, with annual household incomes of at least $45,000. The ads ask them to "Look again" at the Taurus, focusing on its more luxurious interior and quieter ride, compared with the 2002 model.

With the campaign, the division hopes to at least maintain Taurus sales, boost the car's market share and increase shoppers' consideration of the car.

The 2003 Taurus has a base sticker price of $19,990, including a $650 destination charge. Ford considers the car's main competitors to be the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord.

Through the first 10 months of this year, Ford sold 275,279 Tauruses, down from 308,512 for the same period last year. Lyons predicts the division will sell at least 325,000 units of the Taurus this year. But the car, built at two plants, will be cut to one when the Freestyle, a large sport wagon, comes on board in 2004.

Ford Motor Co. will run this ad and another half-page print ad in national magazines, starting with December issues.
Taurus goals
 

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