DETROIT — Bringing back the Taurus name hasn't translated into a sales boom for Ford Motor Co.'s large sedan formerly known as the Ford Five Hundred.
In fact, the 2008 Taurus has gotten off to a slow start since going on sale in June. Combined September sales of 4,230 units of the new Taurus and the old Five Hundred are 30.1 percent below sales of the Five Hundred in 2006. Combined sales were down 3.2 percent in August.
“We're not where we want to be,” Ford sales analyst George Pipas said. “But the retail sales trend is in a positive direction, and that's good.”
It's not an inventory issue — the 2008 Taurus is widely available, Pipas said. Instead, he attributed the year-over-year decline to several factors:
- A tough comparison against September 2006 sales that were fueled by a blowout clearance sale advertising 0 percent financing for 72 months. By contrast, with inventories in better shape this year, the 2008 Taurus carried financing of 5.9 percent for 60 months in September.
“I assure you, if we put 0 percent for 72 months on it, it would stack up to the Five Hundred sales last year,” Pipas said.
For October, Ford added $500 to the $1,000 cash incentive already available on the Taurus.
- A midlaunch advertising hiatus. Taurus ads were halted for about four weeks before resuming on Labor Day.
Ford marketers feared the ads would get lost in the 2007 clearance sales frenzy.
- A sluggish full-sized-sedan market. That segment is “very weak” this year, Pipas said, with many competitors “loading up on fleet to beat the band.” Retail sales in the segment are soft as buyers downsize into smaller cars.
But Pipas said retail sales for the 2008 Taurus appear to be on the upswing. He said a good performance would be the sale of 60,000 Tauruses to retail customers during the car's first full year.