International -- Readers Report
LET THEM EAT USED CARS (int'l edition)
As the original Taurus was a precedent-setter in terms of style and became a huge success, is it possible that "The shape of a new machine" (Special Report, July 24) missed what the "grabber" elliptical styling will do for the 1996 Taurus--price and quality aside? Ford and Team Taurus have a car that is distinctive, not in the family of look- alike Japanese products. Too bad Richard L. Landgraff, who oversaw the Taurus redesign, had to echo CEO Alex Trotman's oft-aloof statements with his "Let Joe Blow buy a used car" remark. Not exactly swift marketing.
In the face of stagnant wages for American families, slowing new-car sales, and increased demand for used cars, Ford's man in charge of the '96 Taurus says that if the average consumer can't afford to buy his new car, he doesn't give a damn! Go figure!
When the next downturn in the U.S. auto industry happens, Ford's managers will have to explain to shareholders why they designed a car that was more expensive to build, lost the Taurus position as the No.1-volume car in the U.S., and hurt profitability. Meanwhile, their Japanese competitors, who have been better at reading consumer trends for years, are making cars less expensive to combat their currency disadvantage. If the dollar-yen exchange rate changes significantly, lowering the relative cost of Japanese cars, Ford will be in a world of hurt. Joe Blow won't give a damn about the Taurus' more expensive features and will buy a Camry.
Thomas J. Dailey