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What's in a name? Ford hopes more sales

DETROIT -- Ford Motor Co. hopes resurrecting the once-mighty Taurus name will help reverse lackluster sales and a lack of desirable cars.

One analyst says it's a good start but the automaker has a long way to go.

Ford will rename its slow-selling Five Hundred model the Taurus, a name Ford previously had used for a car that became the nation's top-seller, two company officials said yesterday.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the official disclosure is expected to be made today at the Chicago Auto Show.

"It addresses one of the issues Ford has: With all the name changes, it lost a lot of the consumers," said Rebecca Lindland, an analyst with Boston-based Global Insight. "[New Ford chief executive] Alan Mulally is not an industry guy, but he is a smart businessman. He's sort of looked from the outside [and said] . . . 'What are you doing, and why did you discontinue the name?' But in the end, it's about product. They still have a tremendous amount of work to do on their product lineup."

The Taurus, considered by some the car that saved Ford, revolutionized the way autos looked and felt when it was introduced in 1985.

The Dearborn, Mich.-based automaker ceased Taurus production in October after 21 years and sales of nearly 7 million, perplexing many industry analysts and former Ford executives who said the brand name had great value.

The Five Hundred sold moderately well in 2005, its first full year on the market, but sales nose-dived last year from almost 108,000 to about 84,000.