What The Hell Were They Thinking: 1996 Ford Taurus


An example of controversial styling taken too far to the point that it wrecked the car's good name.

Let's take one of the best-selling mid-size family sedans in America and turn it into a jelly bean. Yeah, that'll be good. Only it wasn't. Funnily enough, many thought the Ford Taurus looked like a jelly bean or a flying potato when the first generation went on sale in 1986. That car was truly revolutionary in many ways. But in just a decade's time, the third-gen Taurus was launched and that, well, that was a jelly bean. Ford wanted to recreate the attention it received when the original Taurus came out as it set out to completely redesign the car.

What Ford didn't fully take into account was exactly what kind of attention that would be. The 1996 Taurus was so radical looking, both inside and out, that many buyers were simply turned off from the get-go. Ford was doing its so-called oval design language, basically applying the shape of the corporate logo to the entire car. The headlights, front grille, and overall silhouette had oval influences. Even the dashboard, called the Integrated Control Panel, was an oval-shaped pod. Mechanically and dynamically, the '96 Taurus was a good car. It just looked outright strange and it eventually lost sales ground to its domestic and foreign competitors. In many ways, the Taurus never recovered in terms of both sales and prestige.

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