Apparently when Ford CEO Alan Mulally waxed eloquent last week about the anticipated 2010 Taurus, calling it the car the company should have been building all along, he was being more accurate than it first appeared. According to Edmunds.com, the 2010 Taurus isn’t a new car, it’s a face lift of the current one, itself a mild facelift of the Ford 500. An all new Taurus isn’t on track until 2012, it seems. Apparently, however, Ford has decided that the current Taurus is in sufficiently desperate circumstances that diverting attention from the 2012 model long enough for an unplanned redo of the current car is warranted.
The redo includes sheet metal and interior changes, according to an unnamed Ford supplier cited by Edmunds. Exterior styling is said to be more aggressive and interior materials are described as “richer.”
Ford sales have been dropping dramatically over the past year, so Ford may feel that it must do something with the 500/Taurus as rapidly as possible to keep the Taurus name viable until the all new model arrives. But, restyling an existing car is generally confined to redoing the front and rear. Modifying the core body shell, which includes the doors, is far too expensive to be practical, though the doors can be reskinned. That means, however, that the basic profile of the car cannot be changed.
It is that basic profile, however, which has been the major problem for the 500/Taurus since it was first introduced. Ford deliberately chose to build a tall car, one that had a higher roofline and body than its sedan competition. The underlying theory was that buyers, particularly women, had shown a preference for vehicles, such as SUVs, crossovers, and vans that afforded a higher seating position and better view of the road. So, Ford thought that raising the seating position in the new 500 sedan would make it stand out among those buyers.
What they ended up with was a car that took the styling cues of an Audi and applied them to the profile of the old, boxy Checker taxicab. The result was what they intended: practical and competently executed. Unfortunately, it appears they misjudged the market, so now they’ve got to redo it to try to give it some pizzazz.
Of course, Ford has more expertise at wrapping practical with pizzazz than any other car company in history, the legacy of its founder, Henry Ford. Though in his later years, Ford’s behavior was oftentimes seen as erratic, his absolute power in the company extended throughout the 1940’s. Though Ford had no sense of style, he nonetheless dictated that every car bearing the Ford name must meet certain requirements, no matter how these requirements affected the appearance of the car.
Of these, the one rule most inviolate was that any Ford had to be able to carry a full milk can in the trunk. Upright. The kind that used to be employed by farmers to ship milk to market. E. T. Gregorie, who was the director of Ford styling for many years, did not have to meet that requirement for Lincoln s or Mercury ’s. But, for a Ford, the rule stood. In fact, it remained inviolate when the company was designing their first post-war car, the 1949 Ford. It is said that the design studio kept a couple of milk cans around, just to be able to verify measurements and dimensions.
Gregorie and Edsel Ford, his mentor, nonetheless, managed to produce some exceptionally beautiful cars during the 1930s and ‘40’s, cars that looked stylish even as they met the Ford rules for practicality. (The photo is the clay model of the ’49 Ford, the last Ford designed around the milk can requirement.)
Maybe their successors will have as much luck with the facelift of the Taurus.