Ford Sets Forth the safest Full-size Car in Taurus

By: Mike Bartley

After entertaining a change of name, the Ford Motor Co. is sending off its new Taurus. The automaker will tout the new member of the clan as the "safest full-size car in America" with a new advertising campaign that debuts Monday.

The nationwide ad campaign is part of Ford's big push to re-establish the once-valuable Taurus nameplate. The Dearborn-based automaker will use online, television, radio and print ads to target young families and the millions of previous Taurus owners, said Cisco Codina, Ford's group vice president for North America marketing, sales and service. "We have a complete marketing strategy in place with everything from billboards to direct mailing," Codina said last Thursday.

The new Taurus, which is replacing the Ford Five Hundred during the middle of that its first production cycle, will start rolling into dealerships this summer. The ad campaign will launch in stages, first in print and on television on Monday, and then within ten days to online and radio.

People should expect a sophisticated touch to the campaign, said Barry Engle, the general manager of the car company's marketing division. "The same guy who shoots Rolex ads shot the Taurus for our print ads," he said. "They look fantastic."

The ad campaign will not mention that the car is the rebirth of Taurus. It can be recalled that the company has ended production of the legendary car in October when it closed its Atlanta assembly plant. In February, the company announced the Taurus nameplate will be used by the Five Hundred. In addition, the Mercury Montego will also be using the Sable nameplate.

Bringing back the Taurus name was smart, said Tom Libby, an industry analyst with the Power Information Network which is an affiliate of J.D. Power and Associates. "I applaud the move," he said. "To kill the Taurus name was to strand 20 years of customers. It's difficult, and they would spend quite a bit of money, to establish a new name."

Codina said that Ford recognizes the value of the Taurus name and agrees it was foolish to let it go. In recent studies, nearly 40 percent of the auto purchasers surveyed recognized the Five Hundred as a Ford vehicle while about 80 percent knew a Taurus was made by the automaker.

"It's the third most recognized nameplate at Ford," Codina said. "Taurus has huge equity. But we realize that there is some baggage with the name that we have to clean up." He added, "Over the past few years, the automaker relegated the old Taurus to rental car fleets, reducing its resale value and hurting the car's image."

Recent endorsements from the J.D. Power and Associates and Consumer Reports and top safety ratings from the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS_, have given Ford and the Taurus campaign a better grip. The campaign is expected to swiftly put a halt, the way do, to sales doldrums. "I think there is a new air of confidence, and we're standing tall with this vehicle," Engle said. "When the Five Hundred came out, we had the tagline 'Elevating the sedan,' and now we have 'Safest full-size car in America.' You tell me which is stronger?"

"To be a player, you have to be in this segment," Libby said. "What we've seen, to get a domestic model on the shopping list, it's not enough to be competitive, but offer over and above." But the Taurus name could get some people to take a look, Libby added.

"All we want is people to judge us on our own merits," Engle concluded. "I know this car will do better."

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