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Hapeville plant produces its last Ford

'Some of us were happy, some of us were crying,' worker says


The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Published on: 10/27/06

The last Taurus rolled off the assembly line Friday morning at the Ford assembly

plant in Hapeville and into the possession of a legendary Atlanta businessman.

Now, for what's left of the 2,000 workers at the nearly 60-year-old operation,

it's time to begin a new life.

"It was kinda cheerful," said Wayne Pyrda, an electrical inspector who was at

work as the last car came off the line before 8 a.m. "I was surprised. I

expected it to be a little somber."

Ford Motor Co. on Friday shut down one of the most decorated plants in its

network, the second of many casualties to come.

The auto giant, choking on losses that reached $5.8 billion in the latest

quarter, is trying to reverse fortune by trimming payroll.

Though its Hapeville facility has been honored often for productivity, it was

victimized by the company's phase-out of the Taurus, which was assembled here

for two decades, and its off-the-beaten-path location compared to other plants.

The final Taurus, a silver one, was claimed by Truett Cathy, founder of the

Chick-fil-A restaurant chain and car collector.

Indebted to the plant because his original eatery, now called the Dwarf House,

has fed generations of Ford employees, Cathy intends to display the vehicle with

19 others on the floor of the chain's corporate headquarters. The collection

includes a two-door Ford coupe built at the Hapeville plant in its first year of


"Since I was going to get the keys, I was joyful for that," Cathy said after his

Taurus came off the line. "I do have this disease of collecting cars. But I'm

very sorry (plant workers) lost their jobs."

The Dwarf House will remain on Central Avenue. As for the plant, across the

street, the future is uncertain. Ford Motor will continue to own it


Friday's morning rain provided a dreary atmosphere as the plant's assembly line

halted and workers began signing out for the last time.

Emotions were mixed, and reporters were not allowed inside.

"Everybody was real happy to see Cathy. It was good to see him here," said

pipefitter Jerry Irving as he left the plant. Irving said he's one of about 200

workers who'll return to work on "decommissioning" the plant until December.

Simone Grier, who worked in the hood shop, found the day "exciting" in a way.

"I was glad to be a part of history," Grier said. "But it was kind of a sad day.

I'm gonna miss the other workers."

"Some of us were happy, some of us were crying," said Regina Bowen, who worked

on instrument panels. "The work wears ands tears on your body. I'm gonna miss my

friendds and that paycheck."

Only recently has the shock worn off workers who held out hope that the plant's

glittering track record would allow it to prevail. Plant executives have tried

to cushion their fall with job fairs, an open house and "memory books" that

resemble school yearbooks.

Workers have been busy selecting from an assortment of retirement and buyout

packages. Some 300 accepted transfers to the nearest location in Louisville,

Ky.; most of them already have moved.

Of the 1,500 hourly workers who elected to part ways with Ford, about half opted

for a gross lump-sum payment of $100,000. It was open to any employee with at

least one year of service.

About 400 others chose a plan that provided a $35,000 check pre-tax and advanced

them into retirement. Eligible employees were those at least 55 years old with

at least 30 years of service or at least 65 with a minimum of one year.

Workers were presented with eight options for separation, three of which

pertained to education. Only about 60 favored the choices for school funding.

Cathy's Taurus was to be delivered to a Ford dealership, where he would make

payment and accept the car.

The fast-food magnate sent a letter to Ford Motor Co. chief Bill Ford last year,

urging him to reconsider the Hapeville closing.

Cathy said Ford responded with "just a courtesy letter."

"The competition got too stiff for (Ford). That's business. You've got to make a

profit," Cathy said.

The Taurus was the last of about 20 models manufactured in Hapeville, dating to

the 1948 F-1 Pickup. And it was the most popular, by far, with 7.5 million sold

in North America.

In the mid-90s, when Taurus became the nation's top-selling model of any make,

plant payroll approached 3,000. Its decline in popularity contributed to the

plant's demise, partly because of the cost required to retool a facility for a

different model.


Drive your car.

Use your cell phone.


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We have an 01. It's a nice design, roomy and comfortable...but reliability stinks!

Got 29+mpg on last summer's vacation and decent performance but the trans was originally an Escort design. The AC is a problem and the trans was rebuilt (on warranty) once already.

Luckily we got a great deal on it. If I'd bought it new I would be pi**ed.

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We have an 01. It's a nice design, roomy and comfortable...but reliability stinks!

Got 29+mpg on last summer's vacation and decent performance but the trans was originally an Escort design. The AC is a problem and the trans was rebuilt (on warranty) once already.

Luckily we got a great deal on it. If I'd bought it new I would be pi**ed.

Hope mine don't start giving trouble. Have an '02 that I bought new. almost 90,000 miles on it so far. Only been in the shop once. Had new struts put on under warranty. Been a very dependable car ... so far. :)

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  • 3 months later...

Ford Will Resurrect the Taurus Brand - New York Times

February 7, 2007

Ford Will Resurrect the Taurus Brand


DEARBORN, Mich., Feb. 6 — The Ford Taurus, the car credited with reinvigorating

American automotive design two decades ago before falling into virtual

irrelevance by the time it was retired last year, is coming back to life.

But not as the nameplate on a new car. Instead, the Ford Motor Company is

expected to announce Wednesday that it will rechristen the slow-selling Ford

Five Hundred sedan the Taurus later this year when a freshened version is

introduced. Its cousin, the Mercury Montego, is expected to be renamed the


Ford stopped making the old Taurus and Sable about three months ago after a

20-year run. Late last year, Ford’s newly hired chief executive, Alan R.

Mulally, publicly questioned the wisdom of abandoning such a venerable brand.

A bungled redesign and Ford’s decision to focus on more profitable sport utility

vehicles in the mid-1990s cost the Taurus its status as the best-selling car in

the United States. In its final years, the Taurus was merely an also-ran,

available solely to rental-car agencies and other fleet operators.

Still, Ford, which lost $12.7 billion last year, apparently feels the name

recognition trumps what little brand equity it has managed to build for the Five

Hundred, which is itself a variation of the old Fairlane 500.

Sales of the Five Hundred, which Ford considers its flagship sedan, fell 22

percent in 2006 and amounted to less than half as many units as the fleet-only


“The Taurus name has been an outstanding one for us,” said a Ford spokeswoman,

Sara Tatchio, who would neither confirm nor deny plans for reviving the name.

“There’s been a whole lot of buzz about it since Alan mentioned also liking the


Mr. Mulally, a former executive at Boeing, has a personal attachment to the

Taurus, having studied its development to help his team overhaul how Boeing

built planes.

As all three Detroit automakers struggle, they have been reaching into their

past for nostalgic vehicle names. The Chrysler Group brought back the Dodge

Charger as a sedan last year. Two classic muscle car names, the Dodge Challenger

and Chevrolet Camaro, are slated to return within a few years.

In Ford’s case, though, the Taurus brand had become so damaged by the end that

it is unlikely to conjure images of the company’s glory days in many car buyers’

minds, said Laura Ries, president of Ries & Ries, a marketing strategy firm

based in Atlanta.

“Unfortunately, they let the Taurus die. Once you do that to a brand, it’s

difficult to bring it back,” Ms. Ries said. “Consumers are not necessarily going

to remember the best days of the Taurus.”

When new, the Taurus had an aerodynamic, jelly bean-shaped design that stood out

from other American-made cars criticized as being too boxy and bland.

It was an immediate and lasting success for Ford, which sold seven million of

the Taurus and millions more of the similar-looking Sable in their time on the



Drive your car.

Use your cell phone.


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This is probably a good thing for Ford to do, to come back with a big splash with it... It was a big seller for them. They need to make it more exciting however to me it was so plain vanilla.. a point A to point B car... but that is all some want...

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