DETROIT — For the past decade, Village Ford owner Jim Seavitt has exclusively driven black Taurus SHOs.
That streak, which started when the nameplate was last redesigned in 2009, ends in a few months when he turns in his 2018 SHO, a high-performance variant that gained a cult following during the car’s early years. Ford stopped making the Taurus outside of China this month, and there are four of the cars remaining at his dealership — which once sold 40 to 50 a month. Seavitt said he’ll likely opt for an Edge ST.
“I love it,” said Seavitt, whose dealership is three miles from Ford’s headquarters in Dearborn, Mich. “I’m sorry it’s going away. I’m going to have to get used to not having it.”
Seavitt knows he’s in the minority. Taurus sales at Village Ford have slowed to, at best, a handful a month, mirroring the nationwide trend. In fact, the Taurus, America’s best-selling car for five straight years in the 1990s, has fallen so far from the public consciousness that even its death went largely unnoticed.
Ford ended production of the full-size sedan at its Chicago Assembly Plant on March 1, but the news was overshadowed by national media coverage of the final Chevrolet Cruze being assembled at the plant General Motors is idling in Lordstown, Ohio. Aside from a final group photo and a ceremonial hood signature by line workers, it was a relatively subdued end for the Taurus, at one time a revolutionary sedan dubbed “The Car that Saved Ford.”
The Taurus’ aerodynamic design — derided as a “jellybean” and “potato car” by former Chrysler Chairman Lee Iacocca — marked a radical departure from the bland, boxy cars of the 1980s and helped propel the Taurus to No. 1 on the sales charts from 1992 through 1996. It was the last Detroit 3 sedan to win the crown that Japanese brands have owned since 1997.
The Taurus helped usher in a companywide focus on quality, and its eye-catching looks and front-wheel-drive performance even earned it a role as the police cruiser in the movie RoboCop.
And yet, Ford briefly tossed the venerable name aside in 2006, when it discontinued the Taurus following years of neglect and relegation to car-rental lots. Alan Mulally, who became CEO later that year, quickly resurrected the name, this time as a full-size sedan instead of a midsize, because he felt it still had cachet.
But the Taurus never recaptured its magic from the late ’80s and early ’90s and was doomed, in part, because of the success of the Fusion that Ford introduced as a fresh start in the midsize category. In addition, buyers have increasingly dropped large cars for more useful crossovers and SUVs. If they do buy sedans, they tend to opt for reliable, affordable Japanese models such as the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord.
“It was the last stand of the great American sedan,” Karl Brauer, executive publisher at Cox Automotive, told Automotive News. “It represented the last version of a mainstream American car that could appeal to a wide range of people.”