• Feb 6, 2007

Click the image above for the Autoblog Five-Hundred gallery

In the news, at the water cooler, and in your favorite auto magagine, there is no shortage of advice for Ford Motor Company. Advice for new engines, better marketing, and rear drive architectures come flowing in at all angles. Most of the advice seems to center around the need to balance design, safety, horsepower, and business realities to make vehicles that you and I will want to buy. But vehicle names? A recent Detroit Free Press article is one of many that seems to think name recognition is perhaps more vital than it really is. As we reported today, it looks like Ford is listening to the calls for the recasting of the Taurus name, after all. In the end, do we really care what the vehicle is called? We probably care a lot more about what the vehicle can do and how it looks.

When Allan Mulally took over at Ford, he found himself wondering why the company would spend hundreds of millions of dollars over 20 years to build the Taurus name only to drop it because it didn't start with an F. The Five Hundred very well could have been the Taurus from the start, but it wasn't. Lets be honest, the Taurus wasn't the Taurus for almost half its lifespan. We loved it, then we liked it, then finally, we rented it. The product was stale. The name got stale too, mostly because it became synonymous with Hertz, so Ford decided to drop it.

Keep reading for more thoughts on what's in a name.

[Source: Detroit Free Press]



The Honda Accord name is nothing without great product

The Accord name has been around even longer than the Taurus. It's extremely successful too, mostly because the car has gotten better and better with each update, not necessarily because people recognize the name. The Audi A4 also has a name that people recognize. It works because many feel that "Audi" and "A4" stand for driving dynamics, quickness, quality materials, and good looks. No, not everybody likes the A4. Some would say that it has poor quality or an ugly grille, but the ones who actually purchase the A4 would probably disagree.

The Ford Freestar could have stayed the Windstar, as is argued in the linked article from the Detroit Free Press. Some here at Autoblog feel the Aerostar name should have never gone away in the firstplace. Would the Freestar still be selling right now if it stayed the Windstar, or even the Aerostar? Doubtful. The product just kept falling farther and farther behind the competition.


Good looks and competitive features will keep the Edge name valuable

Newer entries from Ford like the Five Hundred, Fusion, and Edge are very good vehicles. The Five Hundred is extremely safe, reliable (Consumer Reports has recommended it) and it's priced reasonably. The problem right now is that it just isn't good enough and as a result it's not selling in large volumes. Instead of relegating it to fleet duty like Ford has done in the past, they have decided to make the vehicle better. Gone is the benign 3.0L and the much improved 3.5L has taken its place for 2008. The more expensive Aisin transmission is replaced with an all-new six-speed that was co-developed with GM. It also takes more risk in the styling department with the new three-bar grille, updated headlights and taillights, and quite a bit more chrome. And, as already stated, a new (old) name, Taurus, looks like it will make its return in conjunction with the updates.

In the end, what's more important, a great name or a great product? History has proven that a name alone means nothing. New Coke still said Coke, but people didn't like the taste, so they quit buying it. Does that mean you can change the name of the F-150 to the Pink Tulip? Probably not. And you wouldn't want to change the Mustang to Asphalt or Azz-Kika, either. Those vehicles have consistency behind them that give Ford the luxury to use the same name for dozens of years. Will the Five Hundred sell better if it's indeed renamed Taurus tomorrow? It's doubtful. Would a better Five Hundred mean more value for either name? You bet.




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  • 36 Comments
      • 5 Years Ago
      i have an 1998 ford expedition 233K when i going up a long hill in OD the truck should gear down and take off ,but when i give it gas the truck feels like its pulling back and somtimes the check engine light flashes until i let off on the gas i will take it out of OD and its fine. now could this be that the truck is misfiring
      • 7 Years Ago
      Comment #23 you're not alone. I own an 05 SEL. I agree with you, the 08 grill and hood are horrible. I like the 08 Montego front end redesign. I'm going to purchase one, and have the Sable name removed from the vehicle, and relable it Montego.
      • 7 Years Ago
      There's nothing milquetoast about This Taurus:

      http://www.taurususa.com/products/product-details.cfm?id=57&category=Revolver

      And yes, they are made in Brazil. Damn good firearm for the money.

      If only FoMoCo could do as well as the Brazilians.....if ONLY.

      • 7 Years Ago
      There's goes ford the engineering/finance company disrespecting consumers again. Do they think the
      American public is that dumb that they can't see through this as indecisive, wishy-washy marketing-ese?

      When will they wake up and realize that branding and marketing require first and foremost respecting the intelligence of the consumer? Recent history shows them taking the blue oval off their headquarters building, replacing it for a few years with the Ford Motor Company script sign, then switching back. Lincoln's going through some Euro-envy, Cadillac emulation strategy no one can figure out.

      Too bad old Henry can't walk into their board room and knock heads. Truth is, if they just built an amazing, class-leading car, no one would care what the name is. Names shouldn't write checks the cars can't cash.


      to the Oval.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Bring back the storied (and high-volume) nameplates: Thunderbird, Cougar and Continental.

      Would you be more excited by the "new T-Bird," or the "new SGBM-75L?"

      Car names today sound like personal ad abbreviations.
      • 7 Years Ago
      The Five Hundred is an abomination. I rented one this year in Florida, and it's an insult to the workers of the UAW, and the car buying public.

      The Way Forward for this product is to strike it dead. It's astonishing that the product meant to save Ford could be so lacklustre. If the 300C/Charger dealt it a death blow, then hopefully the G8 and Holden based sedans will be it's pallbearers.
      BENBEN
      • 7 Years Ago
      What about a Ford Taurus GT500? That could be the next iteration of the SHO, while keeping the old and new. All Ford would have to do is add a bit more chrome, more Euro-inspired handling, AWD optional, larger wheels, and sporty interior/exterior appointments. This would attract the Baby Boomer crowd who are also looking for something with a little get-up-and-go, not just a stale old Crown Vic.
      • 7 Years Ago
      While they're at it they should dump "Fusion" and bring back the Torino, to match the Charger and Malibu. That was a great name. Starsky and Hutch would approve. What a stupid name.

      • 7 Years Ago
      I think names are important for recognition reasons. Its so much easier for the average person to know what a DeVille is than a DTS.
      • 7 Years Ago
      I liked the Taurus - in all its interations. Sure, the Oval was a risk, but at least they took one! And, looks aside, it was an amazing design study (that should have stayed in the studio), but one forgets that it was a much improved vehicle from the awesome first generation Taurus. It had many new features and was well engineered. I rented a Taurus a couple of months ago on a trip, and it is a nice car. I think the 500 is a boring in style, but I like the Taurus 500 idea. The 500 is a good car, too. I look forward to buying a used one in a year or so at a steep discount!
      • 7 Years Ago
      EVER SINCE I FIRST HEARD OF THE 500 AND THOUGHT OF BUYING ONE ('04) AND SETTLED ON A TOYOTA INSTEAD, I WONDERED WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO IT. ALMOST NEVER SEEN IT ADVERTISED, NEVER SEEN THE FIRST ONE ON THE ROAD AND JUST LAST WEEK SEEN THE FIRST ONE IN A MALL PARKING LOT. lOOKED ON THE INTERNET AND FINALLY FOUND ONE LAST DEC AT A REMOTE DEALER 100 MILES NORTH OF THE METRO (ATLANTA, THE MOST CAR POPULATED CITY AFTER LA) HE DIDN'T EVEN KNOW HE HAD IT UNTIL HE RAN AN INVENTORY. I DON'T REALLY WANT ONE RIGHT NOW BUT I HAVE ALWAYS WONDERED WHY IT WAS NEVER ADVERTISED, AT LEAST NOT HERE IN THE SE. NISSAN HAD THE SAME EXPERIENCE WITH IT'S SWEET LITTLE STANZA. JUST DIDN'T SELL. WASN'T ADVERTISED. SO THEY STOPPED PRODUCTION AND REPLACED IT WITH THE ALTIMA. DOES IT SELL/ YOU BET YOUR BOOTS IT DOES. IT PAYS THE RENT BECAUSE THEY ADVERTISE THE CRAP OUT OF IT IN THE PRINT MEDIA IF NOT TV. WHAT HAS FORD BEEN THINKING? ASSEMBLY LINE OF DREAMS? LIKE, BUILD IT AND THEY WILL BUY IT? NO THEY WON'T, UNLESS THEY LEARN THE NAME ANY NEW PRODUCT WILL BECOME DUST CATCHERS ON THE BACK OF THE LOT. AGAIN, WHAT WAS FORD THINKING??????
      • 7 Years Ago
      oh, I LIKE the TAURUS 500!
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