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Detroit News

Requiem for a sporty four door.

Thursday, November 19, 1998

Taurus SHO car ends 10-year run

Loyal enthusiasts to see last model of Ford car in '99


By David Welch / The Detroit News

    DEARBORN -- When Ford Motor Co. launches the restyled Taurus later next year, it will do so without the high-performance model.

    Ford has decided not to build a SHO (Super High Output) Taurus for the 2000 model year, dealers and industry analysts say.

    That will end a 10-year run for the Taurus SHO and at least temporarily nix a vehicle that garnered a small but loyal following of enthusiasts.

    Ford officials declined to comment on their future product plans.

    Ford builds an average 7,000 to 8,000 Taurus SHO cars a year, just about 2 percent of Taurus annual sales. But the SHO had a halo effect on the Taurus, giving the car a name for performance even though the mass-produced, mid-sized base model is targeted at family buyers.

    The 1999 model year is the last for the Taurus SHO and its V-8 Yamaha engine. Then the car will be gone, said Lou Stanford, president of Varsity Lincoln Mercury in Novi and Varsity Ford in Ann Arbor.

    Dealers say the car was difficult to sell. Even though it offered high performance, the Taurus SHO had rental car looks. That made it tough to market the car, even in low volume.

    "You're making the car something it isn't," said Robert Tasca III, vice-president of Tasca Ford in East Providence, R.I. "You not going to turn a mule into a race horse."

    The Taurus SHO battles another problem: buyers perceive it as expensive.

    Other vehicles, such as the Pontiac Bonneville's supercharged SSEi model, have done well because they are more upscale than a Taurus, said Michael Robinet, managing director of CSM Forecasting in Farmington Hills.

    The 1999 Taurus SHO has a 235 horsepower engine and costs close to $30,000, above such competitors as the Buick Regal GS, which has a 240-hp engine and costs less than $25,000, said James Hall, vice-president and industry analyst with AutoPacific Inc. in Southfield.

    "I'd be really shocked if there was a SHO version of the face-lifted Taurus," Hall said.

    That will disappoint enthusiasts such as Kevin Mahoney, an automotive technician in Gaithersburg, Md., who owns a 1989 and a 1993 Taurus SHO and has a service shop that specializes in SHO repair.

    "I wish they would keep making it," Mahoney said. "It's the only car in the world with that engine. They're very unique cars." 

Copyright 1998, The Detroit News

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