Two weeks ago, I bought a book I remember checking out, on multiple occasions, from the library of my secondary school. “Let’s Call It Fiesta,” written by Edouard Seidler and subtitled “the auto-biography of Ford’s Project Bobcat,” was published when the Ford Fiesta first went on sale in 1976. I had been transfixed by the vast array of conceptual designs and models made by various parts of the company, as Ford grappled with producing their first “world car” since the Model T, although I didn’t try to draw them myself either back then, or now. The book chronicles how both an oil crisis, and competition from small cars like the Renault 5 and Fiat 127, created the smallest Ford so far.
Last week, Ford announced that their factory in Valencia, Spain, built to manufacture the Fiesta, will begin making engines for their electric car range. This marks the end of the road for the Ford Mondeo after twenty-eight years, and the end of their producing and selling large family and executive cars in Europe, breaking a link that extended back through to the Consul, Granada, Cortina and Sierra - the nearest car left in their range will be the Mustang Mach E, the electric crossover vehicle as forward-thinking as the Sierra was (which I have talked about previously). When the Mondeo is withdrawn from sale, Ford of Europe will only have two vehicles that are not sports utility vehicles, crossover cars, or vans: the Focus, a smaller family car that replaced the Escort in 2000, and is currently the size of the original Cortina; and the Fiesta, which is now the size of the original Escort, and twenty inches longer than the original version of itself.
There hasn’t really been a time since the 1980s began where Britain’s best-selling car wasn’t either the Ford Fiesta or the Ford Escort. At different times, they have been the standard, middle-of-the-road car: a front-wheel drive hatchback, about fourteen feet long, and big enough to carry a family of four, or five at a push, along with luggage or a pet. Since 2014, the Fiesta has been the best-selling car in UK history, overtaking the 4.1 million sold by the Escort from 1968 until its replacement by the Focus. Indeed, the longevity of the Fiesta may be down to Ford never having changed the name.
However, as evidenced by the numerous designs in the book I now own, the Fiesta has continued to sell because of the space it leaves for the personality of its owners. The original 1976 car was designed by Ghia, to this day a Ford-owned Italian firm of coachbuilders and concept car designers, whose name was once used by Ford as their byword for luxury. There was nothing brash, imposing or excessive about the original Fiesta design, but the curve created by the side windows is a subtle, more European touch. The ubiquity of the Fiesta makes it a part of most driver’s journeys, from having learned to drive or taken their test in one, to it perhaps being the first car of their own. For years, the Fiesta has been the default “British” car.
The fragmenting car market is now weakening the Fiesta’s hold – as off-road and crossover vehicles continue gaining popularity in Europe, even Ford could sell you Fiesta-sized versions of each in the EcoSport and Puma. Crucially, with the Fiesta having increased in size over the years, and with the Ford Ka city car now withdrawn due to lack of interest, Ford no longer makes a car to compete with the current Fiat 500, or the upcoming new electric version of the Renault 5, both of which were precisely the reason Ford made the Fiesta in the first place. It is easier than ever to find the car you want - I guess the Ford Fiesta will continue until we don’t need it anymore.