October 27

This Day in History

Automotive

Oct 27, 2006:

Chick-fil-A founder takes last Ford Taurus

On October 27, 2006, the last Ford Taurus rolls off the assembly line in Hapeville, Georgia. The keys to the silver car went to 85-year-old Truett Cathy, the founder of the Chick-fil-A fast-food franchise, who took it straight to his company's headquarters in Atlanta and added it to an elaborate display that included 19 other cars, including one of the earliest Fords.  "I do have this disease of collecting cars," Cathy told a reporter. "I was very sorry [the workers at the Ford plant] lost their jobs," he said, but "since I was gonna get the keys, I was glad for that."

When Ford added the Taurus to its lineup in 1985, the company was struggling.  High fuel prices made its heavy, gas-guzzling cars unattractive to American buyers, especially compared to the high-quality foreign cars that had been flooding the market since the middle of the 1970s.  The Taurus was smaller than the typical Ford family car, and its aerodynamic styling appealed to design-conscious buyers. Almost immediately, the car was a hit: Ford sold 263,000 in 1985 alone. Sales figures climbed higher each year, and in 1992, the Taurus became the best-selling passenger car in the United States. (It wrested this title away from the Honda Accord, and kept it for the next five years.) It was, according to the Henry Ford Museum, "a winner in the marketplace that saved Ford Motor from disaster."

But by the 2000s, the Taurus had lost much of its appeal. Even after a 1996 facelift, its once cutting-edge design now looked dated, and it still did not have the fuel efficiency of its Japanese counterparts. (In fact, in contrast to cars like the Accord and the Toyota Camry, which overtook the Taurus to become the nation's best-selling car, by the mid-1990s Ford was selling the majority of its Tauruses to rental-car companies, not individuals.)  Ford discontinued the Taurus station wagon at the end of 2004, and idled the Hapeville plant—across the street from the original Chick-fil-A—two years later.  Fifteen hundred workers lost their jobs.

In place of the Taurus, Ford pushed its full-size Five Hundred sedan along with its midsize Fusion.  Neither sold especially well, however, and in 2007 the company re-released the Taurus (actually just a renamed version of the Five Hundred).  It unveiled a revamped, sportier Taurus in July 2009.

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