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The 1986 Taurus

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The Ford Taurus, (and its essentially similar cousin, the Mercury Sable), is probably one of the two most significant American automobiles of the 1980s (the other is the Chrysler Corp. minivan). The exterior styling incorporated a number of emerging trends. The 1986 Taurus set the pace for the aerodynamic look of today. Within a few years, the design had been copied by most makers, both foreign and domestic, and people were complaining that all cars looked like the Taurus.

Juxtaposition with 1949 Ford board As important as Taurus was to the American car market, it was even more important to Ford Motor Company. By 1980, Ford was suffering from the combined effects of higher gas prices, foreign competition, government regulation, internal strife (the feud between Henry Ford II and Lee Iacocca that resulted in Iacocca's firing), and its own products' dated design and poor reliability. The company was losing money and market share. Preliminary work had begun on a new mid-size car code named Sigma, and new Chairman Philip Caldwell saw the project as a way to get Ford back on track. His goal was to create a "world class" car with styling, engineering, and performance equal to or better than any similar sized car.

A team approach was adopted for the project, bringing together car design engineers, stylists, manufacturing engineers, and marketing people. The traditional way to design a car was for each group to do its own work, passing the design "over the wall" to the next group. The result was poor communication, and designs that were poorly integrated and often expensive to manufacture. The team approach solved many of those problems. Ford also "benchmarked" the car, identifying competitive cars with the best features and trying to equal or improve on them in the Taurus. The distinctive styling was not compromised away as was often the case with radical designs. Great emphasis was put on design for quality low cost manufacturing. Quality was made the first priority in plants building the Taurus. The result was a winner in the marketplace that saved Ford Motor from disaster.

About our Car: This particular Taurus was used by Motor Trend for its Car of the Year tests. Gift of Ford Motor Company. In recognition of this accomplishment, The Henry Ford gave the Edsel B. Ford Design History Award to Team Taurus in 1995.

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