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End of an era: Taurus production ceases at the Chicago Assembly Plant

The last Ford Taurus rolls off the line at the Chicago Assembly Plant. Production at the plant is shifting to more profitable pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles.

The last Ford Taurus — once America's best-selling car — has rolled off the line at the Chicago Assembly Plant in Hegewisch just across the state line, ending a nearly 34-year history.

The factory on the banks of the Calumet River, one of the bistate Calumet Region's largest employers since it opened in 1924, has been making the Taurus since 1986, but Ford is now focused on higher margin vehicles like pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles, as well as legacy performance vehicles like the Mustang.

The 2.8 million-square-foot auto factory at 12600 S. Torrence Ave. on the far South Side is now making the Lincoln Aviator instead of the Taurus, which was prominently featured as a "futuristic" vehicle in "Robocop," and which Ford describes as a "historic and pioneering nameplate." It's the first time the Chicago Assembly Plant has not made any passenger cars since World War II.

The Taurus has been described as "the car that saved Ford" and as "a milestone for the entire automotive industry," since it was the first to adopt statistician W. Edwards Deming's process control ideas as part of Ford's efforts to shift focus to quality during the 1980s.

“Taurus broke new ground at its start and we’re thankful for its role in our portfolio,” said Mark LaNeve, Ford vice president of U.S. marketing, sales and service. “Those same kinds of innovations will continue for today’s customers with Ford Explorer and the rest of our lineup.”

The Taurus has been made nearly continuously at the Chicago Assembly Plant for the last three decades, except for a brief period when it was discontinued from 2004 to 2008. Workers have cranked out 8 million Taurus sedans over the years, including 28,706 last year.

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The Taurus' annual sales peaked at more than 409,751 in 1992 and have been declining steadily since the year 2000.

It debuted at the 1985 Los Angeles Auto Show as a sleek departure from the boxier sedan shapes at the time, and was the best-selling car in the United States in the 1990s. It lost its crown to the Toyota Camry in 1997.

The Taurus then was used as a stock car in NASCAR, where it won several Winston Cup and Busch Series championships and was driven by stars like Dale Jarrett.

Ford brought the Taurus back to the United States as an all-new car in 2008. But now it's dead in the U.S. again, as Ford is replacing more than 75 percent of its North American lineup with more profitable trucks, SUVs and commercial and performance vehicles, effectively ceding the sedan market to Japanese vehicles like the Camry, Toyota Corolla, Honda Civic and Nissan Altima.

Ford is investing $1 billion in the Chicago Assembly Plant, where it plans to hire 500 more workers to produce the Explorer, Aviator and Police Interceptor Utility.

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Business Reporter

Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.