Mr. Fields cited the low awareness of all three models. "Only one in four people are aware that there's a car called the Ford Five Hundred," he said. "And the numbers are even lower for the Ford Freestyle and Mercury Montego."
Ford's marketing department started consumer research on the names last year and found the Taurus name was recognized by 80% of people, and was the third-strongest nameplate in the brand's lineup, behind the F-150 pickup and Mustang coupe.
The automaker believes it will take more than two years of consistent marketing and "literally hundreds of millions of dollars for brand awareness to reach appropriate levels" for the Five Hundred, Mr. Fields said. "Frankly, that strategy will not work for us."
When the revolutionary-styled Taurus first burst on the scene in the mid-1980s, it boosted Ford's financial situation acting as a sort of save-the-company model. But in recent years, Ford didn't advertise the car, which was relegated to fleet sales, including rentals. Less than 20% of Five Hundred sales are to fleet, although the bulk of that is to government, not car-rental outfits, said Mr. Fields.
Ford built more than 7 million Tauruses over its 20-year run, which ended last year.
'Launched and abandoned'
When asked by Advertising Age what the awareness for the year-old Ford Fusion sedan was, Mr. Fields said it now has about a 40% awareness rate, "which is not where we want to be." But Ford has consistently backed the model with advertising and events, unlike the Five Hundred, which "we kind of launched and abandoned."
After learning that lesson, Mr. Fields said Ford will make sure it backs the just-launched Ford Edge crossover "with the right amount of advertising and marketing to build awareness."