Magazine article Management Review

Taurus 101: Ford Revises Its Playbook

Magazine article Management Review

Taurus 101: Ford Revises Its Playbook

Article excerpt

The redesigned Taurus had many fathers and mothers because a 700-member team including designers, engineers and manufacturers labored over it. But if the car had a godfather, it was probably Kenneth K. Kohrs.

Kohrs, 58, was vice president of car product development for Ford's North American Automotive Operations when the new Taurus was in its gestation. Today, Kohrs is vice president of Ford's large and luxury car vehicle center in Dearborn, Mich., responsible not only for the Taurus, but for vehicles ranging from the Jaguar to Ford Australia's Falcon.

An engineer by trade, Kohrs says he believes in teams, such as the one that worked on the new Taurus. A self-described coach, he's spent time as a Monday-morning quarterback, trying to figure out what went wrong to cause the disappointing sales numbers - and how to avoid making the same mistake twice.

Q: What did Toyota do right with the Camry that you did not do with Taurus?

Kohrs: I hate to say this, but they have chosen a very conservative style. It offends no one and is pleasing to many. I think they did that right. Second, they took a lot of money out of the car. In fact, we would even say they cheapened the car. They were able to drop the price or offer more equipment for the same price. And when the yen started to strengthen, they're taking money to the bank. Toyota also has had consistent quality - and they've had it for a long time.

Q: When you first sat in a new Camry was there anything about it where you just sighed and said, "I wish we would have done this"?

Kohrs: No. In fact, I'll say showroom impression - when you first get in - is a disappointment It's not our policy to criticize our competition, but you asked me from a business standpoint. The Camry looked a little strict to me - a very traditional instrument panel and not a lot of luxury items. Now let me turn it around and be positive. Start the engine and you almost can't hear it. I think that's marvelous.

Q: Was Ford becoming a little complacent after having the best-selling car in the United States for a number of years? Was that the underlying problem?

Kohrs: No. The team had a great sense of urgency. The 1993 approval document for the Taurus literally said "Beat Camry. …

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