FORD'S TAURUS IS STILL THE nation's best-selling car, but the claim has an increasingly empty ring to it. Sales of the all-new 1996 Taurus, arguably Ford's most important introduction in years, fell 27%, to just over 28,000 cars, in November, after a 16% October decline--and December may not be much better. A big reason: Taurus' prices, which start near $20,000. Ford also blames a steep decline in sales to rental-car fleets and lower showroom traffic from expiring Taurus leases. Analysts expect Ford to dangle sweeter lease deals to juice up sales, but to avoid cash rebates. Why is Taurus still No.1? Car sales are weak across the board, as buyers flock to trucks.

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