Here’s How The Taurus Turned Around Ford’s Fortunes Back In The 1980s


Summary

  • The Ford Taurus’s innovative design and features revolutionized the automotive industry and set new standards in design and fuel efficiency.
  • The Taurus’s success not only saved Ford from bankruptcy but also influenced competitors and future models, leading to an American car design revolution.
  • The Taurus’s impact extended beyond the United States, becoming a cultural icon and finding success in international markets, highlighting its lasting appeal and Ford’s global strategy.



In the early 1980s, Ford was facing a critical period. Its product lineup was outdated, and the company was at risk of bankruptcy. This situation led to the development of the Ford Taurus, a vehicle that Ford hoped would revitalize the blue oval brand. The Taurus represented a significant shift in automotive design, with its aerodynamic ‘jelly bean’ shape and innovative features that contrasted the boxy designs that were prevalent at the time.


The introduction of the Taurus in 1985 was a bold move by Ford. The car’s development involved extensive customer input and the disassembly of competitors’ models for inspiration. Despite initial skepticism from industry experts and competition, the Taurus quickly became one of the most anticipated cars of 1986, winning multiple awards and selling over a million units in its first generation.


Ford’s gamble with the Taurus paid off, turning around the company’s fortunes and setting new standards in automotive design. The success of the Taurus not only saved Ford from potential bankruptcy but also led to a revolution in American car design, influencing competitors and future models. The Taurus’ impact was so significant that it continues to be recognized and celebrated, being named a “Future Classic” and one of the most influential American cars of the 1980s.

In order to give you the most up-to-date and accurate information possible, the data used to compile this article was sourced from various manufacturer websites and other authoritative sources, MotorTrend, Car and Driver, and Hagerty.

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The Taurus’ Design And Innovation


The Taurus marked a significant departure from the conventional automotive designs of the time. Its development process was heavily influenced by customer feedback, as Ford conducted in-depth surveys to determine the preferences of average consumers in its target market. This approach was a real change from Ford’s previous design strategies and was a result of the lessons learned from the Ford Edsel, a notable failure in the company’s history.


The Taurus’ design was a product of meticulous studies into successful vehicles, including the disassembly and examination of competitor models like the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord. The aim was to create a car that was innovative in design and met the practical needs and expectations of consumers.

Aerodynamic ‘Jelly Bean’ Design

The Ford Taurus featured an aerodynamic design, often likened to a ‘jelly bean’ or ‘flying potato.’ This design was inspired by vehicles such as the Audi 100 and Ford’s own Tempo, which was contradictory to the boxy shapes prevalent in the 1980s. The aerodynamic shape not only gave the Taurus a distinctive look but also improved fuel efficiency, helping Ford meet stringent Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards.


This design success led to an American car design revolution, with competitors like Chrysler and General Motors developing their own aerodynamic models to capitalize on the Taurus’s success.

Revolutionary Features And Public Reception

The Taurus was full of innovative features for the time, including flush aerodynamic composite headlights, a first for American sedans. This change even required Ford to negotiate changes in federal regulations, which previously mandated standardized round or rectangular sealed beam headlights.


The car also featured a grille-less ‘bottom breather’ nose, doors that were designed to flow up into the roof, creating an airtight interior, and handles and windows that were flush with the body, enhancing its aerodynamic profile.


1987 Ford Taurus Wagon
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The interior of the Taurus was also new and innovative. It was designed to be user-friendly, with controls that were recognizable by touch, allowing drivers to operate them without taking their eyes off the road. This ergonomic focus was also seen in the placement of the controls, as they were situated within the driver’s reach, further improving the driving experience.


The Taurus’s reception was overwhelmingly positive, and it quickly became one of the most anticipated new cars of 1986. It received critical acclaim and won several awards, including MotorTrend’s Car of the Year for 1986, and was featured on Car and Driver’s Ten Best List for 1986.


The film industry also noticed its radical design, with the Taurus featured in films like “Back to the Future Part II” and “RoboCop.”It had a lasting influence on the automotive industry and was recognized as a “Future Classic” and one of the most significant American automobiles of the 1980s.

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The Market Impact And Sales Of The Taurus

1986 Ford Taurus front three-quarter
Ford


The Ford Taurus represented a critical moment in automotive history when it entered the market in 1986. This first-generation Taurus was not just a new car model, but it represented a new era of car design and quality standards, especially for Ford.


At the time Ford had been primarily producing rear-wheel drive cars, and the Taurus was part of Ford’s transition to more modern, front-wheel drive vehicles. Its release was one of the most anticipated by consumers and automakers, as it was significantly different from everything else available at the time.

Sales Success And Awards

The Ford Taurus had an impressive market debut and quickly became one of the most popular new cars of 1986. This success was proved by its sales figures, as more than 200,000 units sold for the 1986 model year alone. By 1989, the millionth Taurus was sold, further proving its success and popularity. The Taurus also received critical accolades from many reviewers and publications internationally. These achievements fortified the Taurus’s impact on the market, in both consumer appeal and critical reception.

Influence On Competitors And Industry Standards

The success of the Taurus spurred a rapid change in American car design. Its aerodynamic ‘jelly bean’ design set new benchmarks for fuel efficiency and design aesthetics. This led competitors to develop their own aerodynamic models, in a scramble to meet the new standard set by Ford.


The Taurus’s innovative exterior and interior design elements, such as its aerodynamic shape, user-friendly interior, and fuel efficiency, were groundbreaking at the time and have had a lasting influence on the design and manufacture of cars industry-wide.

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The Taurus’ Cultural And Global Influence

1987 Ford Taurus MT-5 parked on the road
Ford


The Ford Taurus has had a significant impact culturally and globally. Its unique design and popularity not only revolutionized the American automotive industry of the ‘80s but also cemented its place in popular culture and markets around the world.


The new design of the Taurus and the impressive features that it came with as standard were part of why it had such an impact on the automotive industry, but its impact on the global car market and its lasting significance were a result of other factors, including its use in film and media, and its rapid adoption into countries other than America, where American cars had not yet made headway.

The Taurus In Film And Media

The Taurus quickly became a cultural icon, appearing in various films and media. Its distinct design and popularity made it a natural choice for filmmakers and advertisers looking for a modern and ideal American car. The Taurus was notably featured in blockbuster films of the 1980s and 1990s, further solidifying its place in American pop culture. The car’s radical design also piqued the interest of movies and media, leading to its use in futuristic-themed films and television shows.

Export To International Markets

The Taurus’s influence extended beyond the United States as it found its way into international markets. This car was initially focused on the North American market, but the success and popularity of the Taurus led Ford to explore opportunities abroad. The Taurus was exported to Japan in the late 1980s, but its sales were negatively impacted by local regulations and taxes.


Despite this setback, its international appeal continued, as demonstrated by the popularity of the Taurus in the Middle East. The model saw a significant increase in sales in countries like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Oman. Ford adapted to regional needs and conditions, ensuring that the Taurus remained relevant and appealing in diverse markets. The continued popularity of the Taurus in these regions highlights its enduring appeal and Ford’s successful global strategy.

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Legacy And Long-Term Impact Of The Taurus

1986 Ford Taurus parked outside
Ford


The Ford Taurus left an indelible mark on the entire automotive industry. The Taurus saw more than 7.5 million units built over its production life, and became one of the best-selling vehicles for Ford in North America. This car was not only a commercial success; it was a pioneer in automotive design and engineering, and significantly influenced the industry’s direction as a whole.

Recognition And ‘Future Classic’ Status

The Ford Taurus was recognized for its innovation right from its launch. It broke new ground with its design and technology, setting new standards for the industry. This was acknowledged through numerous awards and accolades.


The design of the Taurus and its overall impact was so significant that it continued to receive recognition years after its introduction, including being named a “Future Classic” by automotive enthusiasts and experts. The Taurus’s success story speaks of Ford’s pursuit of innovation, which continues to be a guiding principle for the company today.

Ford Performance Models
Ford Performance


The Taurus’s influence extended well beyond its own model life. It was the first car resulting from a new quality culture at Ford, a response to the substantial losses the company faced between 1979 and 1982. The design and manufacturing approaches adopted for the Taurus set new standards within Ford, and influenced following models and the broader industry.


The Taurus’s success in the market, combined with its innovations in design and quality, prompted other manufacturers to rethink their own approaches, which to a wide shift in design trends across the industry. The legacy of the Taurus remains in the continued evolution of Ford’s model lineup, as seen in their focus on developing vehicles that meet changing consumer preferences and technological advancements.


The Ford Taurus was much more than a successful car model. It was a pivotal point in automotive history. Its influence on design trends, manufacturing quality, and Ford’s overall approach to vehicle production left a lasting impact on the industry, shaping the future of automotive design and engineering.



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