Mulally Backs Established Nameplates
When Alan Mulally came to Ford Motor Co. from Boeing Co. in 2006, one thing was already bothering him, before he even walked through the door.
He wanted to know why Ford had dropped the Taurus.
Ford executives admitted their own failure to invest in the sedan had transformed the one-time bestseller into the stuff of which rental car fleets are made. Mulally said that was no reason to abandon a nameplate Ford had spent millions of dollars turning into a household word.
In the new Explorer, Ford has its first real opportunity to put Mulally's preaching into practice. Instead of scrapping what was once a license to print money and has since become a poor-selling albatross, the automaker is spending the money to keep a still-valuable name viable.
Ford did revive the Taurus name at Mulally's behest, but because its replacement -- the Ford Fusion -- was already in showrooms and selling well, it was applied to an entirely different car: the Ford Five Hundred, which was about to get a major freshening.
The problem was that the Five Hundred cost more and was a lot bigger than the old Taurus, and that created some real confusion in the marketplace.
The new Explorer is a direct replacement for the old SUV, albeit one built on an entirely new, car-based platform that promises better fuel economy and a more comfortable ride.
"We knew that there was a lot of love for the Explorer brand, but we also knew that we had to do something to bring the product into the 21st century," said Amy Marentic, head of marketing for Ford cars, crossovers and sport utility vehicles.
But marketing the new Explorer will require a different message this time around.
With oil filling up the Gulf of Mexico and greed no longer good, Ford will focus on the things like fuel economy, soy-based seat foam and safety. Ads will show the Explorer in the great outdoors, rather than running over it.
"People's attitudes have really changed. They're kinder and gentler," Marentic said. "What we've tried do is deliver a vehicle that is consistent with their moral integrity."