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Taurus Returns: Can The Bull Lead Ford Back?

2008 Ford Taurus
2008 Ford Taurus

The bull is back at Ford . At least that's the attitude Ford is taking with the re-birth of the Taurus. But as - walk around the new Taurus being built here at Ford's plant on the south side of Chicago, I'm wondering how much of a charge this new bull will lead at Ford.

Changing the name of the 500, along with the grill and adding a more powerful engine, is a smart move at Ford. Name recognition of the Taurus among buyers is 80%, compared to 40% for the 500. Put that name recognition together with some marketing and Ford's bound to get more people into the showroom to check out the car. Ultimately, that should lead to better sales. Given that 500 sales are down 29% and Ford car sales are down 26%, these guys need help.

But bringing back the Ford by essentially re-badging the Taurus will be a tough sell for a couple reasons.

First, the Taurus is both a symbol of Ford's better days (early 90's the original Taurus was the best selling car in the country) and worst days (a few years back when the last generation of the Taurus was essentially and uninspiring rental car). Will buyers remember the glory days of the Taurus or will they immediately think of the early part of this decade when Taurus was unappealing?

Second, will buyers be interested in the new Taurus when the 500 it replaces was a boring car? Yes, there's a new grill and engine, but the overall package is still, in my opinion, pretty lackluster.

Nonetheless, I give Ford and CEO Alan Mulally credit for moving to jumpstart car sales. Who knows, maybe this bull is feisty enough to lead a charge for the blue oval.

Questions? Comments? BehindTheWheel@cnbc.com

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