The Ford Taurus is dead. Long live the “Jellybean.”

The iconic family sedan, which bowed in 1985 as a ‘86 model, drew its last breath in October, when Ford pulled the plug on production at its Atlanta assembly plant.

Ford execs must have winced a bit, having sold a total 7.5 million Taurus sedans and wagons in North America, alone. It’s unlikely a U.S. domestic auto maker ever again will see that kind of sales result from a single passenger car.

Ironically, the Taurus, which is credited with steering Ford through one of its darkest periods, meets it demise just as the auto maker is undergoing its worst crisis of confidence ever, whose outcome will make or break the 100-year-old company.

Critics knocked the early Taurus for its bulbous styling, inspired by the Audi 5000, likening it to a jellybean alongside boxier vehicles typical of the era. But the Taurus proved a success, and many of its styling cues are found in today’s vehicles.

After the first generation’s 6-year run, Ford revamped the Taurus for the ‘92 model year, maintaining the overall shape but adding new body panels, slimmer headlights and smoothed-out body sides, resulting in a less-controversial, more-refined design.

The refresh was a success, and Taurus was deemed the best-selling passenger car in the U.S. that year, with 492,751 units delivered, Ford says.

It ably maintained the top spot until losing a tight race to the Toyota Camry in 1997, after Taurus sales slipped from 401,049 in 1996 (its second-best year) to 357,162 against the Camry’s 397,156.

And although the Taurus rallied to 371,074 deliveries in 1999 and 382,035 the following year, the die was cast, with the Camry garnering 448,162 and 422,961 sales in the period, respectively.

Despite its dotage, the Taurus this year through September still was able to muster 183,248 sales. Unfortunately, the majority of deliveries were to rental fleets, an unprofitable market from which Ford and other domestic makers are trying to distance themselves.

Even in its death throes, the marque ranked eighth on the list of best-selling cars in the U.S. through the end of October. With all the current criticism of Detroit’s auto makers not stacking up against the competition, no one can deny the Taurus its amazing stamina.

As Ford’s hopes now ride on the Five Hundred and Fusion large and midsize sedans and Edge cross/utility vehicle, there remain legions of car owners still loyal to the Taurus. Long live the “Jellybean.”

bmcclellan@wardsauto.com