Recently a friend asked where the economy was heading over the next six months or if maybe there was a benchmark or barometer she could follow?
After thinking for a minute I blurted out "watch the new Ford Taurus."
She was quite surprised by my comment and quite frankly I even surprised myself a bit. The more I thought about it though, the more convinced I am. "If you are looking for a benchmark on the economy, watch the new Ford Taurus!"
Why? When Alan Mulally was brought in to lead Ford in 2006, apparently he saw nothing new in the pipeline and even though his "people" believed otherwise, he insisted on something new and quickly. Remember this was before the collapse of the system and the economic nightmare we are seeing at the moment. Also remember Ford has not taken any bailout money and has not filed for bankruptcy. Mr. Mulally insisted on a new Taurus and insisted on it fast.
So, in August of this year, the new Taurus will be on showroom floors. It is a new design and basically a new product. It has the heart and soul of Ford's upper management in it. It has been designed and rolled-out faster than any previous Ford and utilizing new methods.
What to watch for and why it is a barometer...- Does the Taurus catch the attention of the public and create a positive buzz? America needs some good news and to feel good again. We are a car society and even though some may argue otherwise, a car can turn our heads and a really nice car can put a smile on our faces.
- Does it pass the quality test? For used "state of the art" design techniques to bring out the Taurus faster. These techniques are the backbone of the "new" Chrysler and GM. Does quality suffer? If the Taurus is of quality it offers hope for other car manufacturers.
- Does the Taurus sell? Recently we read about the Chevy Camaro selling well. But this is a muscle car with a cult following and people putting money down way ahead of time. A Taurus is targeted at a different market. Families, corporations, fleet owners. If the Taurus sells, does this mean that people are back in the spending mood? Does this mean that credit to the heart of America is available again?
If the Ford Taurus does not sell, does not create a buzz, does not pass the quality test, and does not solicit smiles and good feelings.... What will? If the Taurus does fail and Ford sees bleak days, the one star that everyone pointed to in this dismal economy will have been extinguished.
While pinning an economic barometer on the success of a new car may not seem the best of bets, the Ford Taurus will at least give us a sense of the mood of consumers, credit availability, spending habits and a glimpse of the viability of the auto industry. Sorry Mr. Mulally, but a benchmark on whether the economy will be better soon or are we in for a bleak fall has been palced on your shoulders and the success of your Taurus