DEARBORN, MI – Challenged with burnishing the tarnished Taurus nameplate, Ford Motor Co. next week launches a marketing program that distinguishes the all-new model from its predecessor.

“People know what a Taurus is, but we’ve got to reintroduce Taurus as a brand to them,” says Mike Crowley, manager-Ford Car and CUV Marketing.

Whereas in recent years the Taurus could be characterized as an inexpensive, safe, roomy and capable vehicle, it desperately lacked the design panache and cutting edge technology today’s consumers demand.

“When people saw the old Taurus, they liked it – very capable – but adding the design and technology brings a new customer we didn’t have before,” Crowley says of the car, which seeks 40-something buyers, 15 years younger than those who purchased the previous model.

Ford expects the new Taurus demographic will include consumers downsizing from an SUV or luxury sedan and considering a Chrysler 300, Chevrolet Impala or Toyota Avalon.

Moray Callum, executive director-Ford Americas design, says the new Taurus’ exterior design exhibits a “dramatic aesthetic,” while its interior carries a “sporty influence” – words few people in the industry would use to describe the old model.

The new Taurus also showcases Ford’s EcoBoost technology, a turbocharged, direct-injected engine based on Ford’s normally aspirated 3.5L Duratec V-6. The engine produces 365 hp at 5,500 rpm and peak torque of 350 lb.-ft. (475 Nm), but is expected to achieve a relatively thrifty 17-25 city/hwy (13.8-9.4 L/100 km) fuel-economy rating.

Although only high-performance Taurus SHO models costing more than $38,000 will benefit from EcoBoost technology, Crowley expects consumers will find the base 3.5L engine “equally engaging.” The new Taurus starts at $25,995.

In addition, Ford marketers are tasked with selling the all-new Taurus in a richer segment. Since its introduction in 1986 and outside of the ’08 and ’09 model years when the Five Hundred was renamed the Taurus, the car generally has occupied the high-volume midsize segment.

As such, the old Taurus consistently ranked as a top-selling passenger car during the 1990s, garnering a peak 3.2% of the light-vehicle market in 1992 with 409,751 units sold, according to Ward’s data. But by 1993, its share dipped below 2.0%, and in a market only 326,528 units larger than 1992, Taurus’ share last year shrank to 0.4%.

Speaking to journalists after detailing the car’s go-to-market strategy at Ford headquarters here, Crowley admits it may take some time for the new Taurus to gain a foothold in the fullsize segment. But, he adds: “We’re not going to say this is a fullsize sedan and different than the previous vehicle.”

Instead, Ford will bank partly on the Taurus selling off the Fusion, much the same way sales of Apple Inc.’s computers have benefitted from the popularity of its ubiquitous iPod.

“And it takes time to do this,” Crowley adds. “We’re not saying this is a quick fix. But we’ve seen it happen” outside the auto industry.

“From an investment perspective, to build an all-new brand and all-new nameplate… it’s expensive,” he says.

In addition to three television spots and digital and print ads, Ford’s marketing plan includes five Internet demonstration segments featuring competitive vehicles. Given the technology available on the new Taurus, says Matt VanDyke, director-U.S. marketing at Ford, it is pitted against out-of-segment competitors such as the Lexus LS 460, Infiniti M45X, Audi A6 and Acura TL.

“The goal is not to position (the Taurus) in the luxury class,” VanDyke says. “These are very different customers here. They are not brand-seekers. They’re not looking for a badge. But what they are looking for is advanced technology, (and) this is a good way for us to demonstrate that.”

The auto maker’s message will focus on the technology available on the new Taurus, such as EcoBoost, a new blind-spot detection system and its Sync audio option.