Saturday, October 28, 2006

No More Bull

My 2000 Taurus
The last Ford Taurus rolled off the line in Georgia yesterday ending a 21 year history. My last Taurus (actually a Mercury Sable) “rolled off” this past summer when I traded the 2004 Sable for a 2007 Toyota Camry Hybrid.

The price of gas had just peaked past $3.00 a gallon and I had been sniffing around hybrids since they appeared a few years ago. Had Ford come up with a reasonable hybrid – instead of the ridiculous SUB hybrid (that got almost the same gas mileage as the Sable), I might have bought one.

I owned three Taurus/Sables over a ten year period. The first, a 1996 was my favorite. Unlike the average person, I loved the oval shape and Star Trek interior. I know that the radio button drove everyone crazy, but I loved them. This was my first automatic transmission in many years, and after as few weeks of driving, I had no interest in returning to the stick. Yes, the gas mileage compared to the 1991 Mazda Protégé (4-cylinder) was striking, but in those days we weren’t too concerned about these things.

The 1996 Taurus started to nickel-and-dime me at around 100K. First the heater core (all three had the same problem), the brakes (again all three had the same defect) and then the catalytic converter. I had dumped $2500 into it in six months and it needed a thousand dollars more work to make it last another year. I used that as a down payment at bought a 2000 Taurus. By then the Ford engineers had bowed to the “complaints” of the old farts running the company and had ruined the design to a box. The novelty and forward thinking elements were all gone. But it was a comfortable and relatively safe car.

At around 100K this one started to misbehave like the last one and my extended warrantee had expired. After breaking down on a road trip to DC and having to pay $500 to have it fixed, I drove back to the dealer and got the 2004 Sable.

The Sable was a step up in terms of creature comforts and I loved some of the higher tech gizmos – my favorite was the self-dimming rear view mirror. But with each successive Taurus/Sable, the gas mileage dropped. The Sable only got 26 mpg on the highway (although it got 29 mpg when we drove to Florida in spring 2005). In the winter, the best I could hope for was 24 mpg.

I reflect on this because I think it is symptomatic of what was happening to Ford in general. Their business plan was becoming more Republican with no regard to gas mileage issues and more interest in continuing to promote large gas-guzzling behemoths like the Explorer and Expedition. I was increasingly becoming ashamed of driving a Ford product and it was clear the company had no interest in changing.

So, the death of the Taurus and what it represented are clearly symbolic of the demise of Ford Motors. They have now dropped behind Toyota and are threatened with extinction.

We’ve owned Ford products in my family since the 1930s. When my father steered away in the late 70’s to Chrysler, he regretted it. But he never bought another Ford. I’ve owned seven Ford/Mercury; most bought new. But, I’ll tell you, without a major turn around in their corporate mindset, I think I’ve bought my last.


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