Over time, 22 million Ford Fiestas were produced worldwide. It was the best-selling car in several countries, including the UK.
The Fiesta is over.
Since 1976, Ford produced a global response to the OPEC Oil Crisis in the form of the Fiesta. The subcompact car gave Ford’s European operations a boost with a solidly designed hatchback that welcomed owners worldwide to its charms.
Over time, 22 million Ford Fiestas were produced worldwide. It was the best-selling car in several countries, including the UK. Many owners have stories of how their Fiesta got them through their driver’s license exam to seeing how their precious car has jumped in value in the classic vehicle market.
The last two Fiestas were produced in Cologne, Germany. Both will be kept by Ford – one heading to the company’s heritage collection in the UK.
Why talk about a car that rarely made a dent in the American automotive market?
Let’s talk about solutions and timing. For 1977, Saarlouis-built front-drive Fiestas made it over to North America as Ford’s solution towards providing efficient transport in response to the Oil Crisis. Dearborn thought that offering a small hatchback would bring a new kind of consumer to dealerships.
Importation of the Fiesta came as Ford transitioned from importing the Capri coupe for Lincoln-Mercury dealers towards offering the small car alongside Pintos, Mustang IIs, LTDs, and Mavericks. They looked at customers who were shopping for the Renault Le Car and Volkswagen Rabbit. Although the Rabbit was larger, American consumers had no reference to the size classes in Europe to make a proper comparison. Anything small was small.
For the North American market, Ford dropped their 1.6-liter Crossflow Kent four-cylinder engine under the hood, along with a manual transmission in the Fiesta. They also swapped out the flush headlamps for round sealed beam units and beefed up the bumpers to comply with Federal safety regulations.
Over a few model years, the Fiesta did not sell as well as Ford hoped. It was dropped in favor of a North American version of the global Escort.
The small Ford from Europe was absent from our marketplace. It flourished elsewhere around the world – including South America. Instead, Ford’s North American arm dabbled with small cars from partner companies to fill the space. Namely, the Kia-built Festiva and Aspire. Mazda also collaborated on the Mercury Tracer, as well as the subsequent generation of Escort and Tracer.
In turn, four generation of Fiestas provided some memorable moments for the rest of the world. Introduction of hot small hatchbacks, such as the XR2 and a bevy of RS models. To answer the question why we never got them, the marketing folks in Dearborn saw price as the primary reason. That is why we got less expensive Kia-built small cars instead.
That finally changed in 2009. Dearborn wanted to institute a One Ford strategy that would align its key products globally – including North America. The introduction of the Fiesta back to this market was also a response to a trend towards small vehicles in the new millennium.
Our Fiestas came from Cualutitlan in Mexico, a cost-saving measure that was instrumental in selling them in our market. It was arrived for 2010 with its New Edge design and faulty dual clutch PowerShift automatic transmission. But, hey, the ST models provided some thrills while it was here – and not because of their coolant issues.
Of course, North America was the first market to bid farewell to the Fiesta. They really never caught on. Only in Europe did the subcompact truly lived out their full potential to their customers to the end.
The Fiesta was simply a victim of a global automotive market that is slowly steering away from the internal combustion engine, hatchbacks, sedans, cou pes…and so forth. Perhaps a bit too preemptively.
Managing the news of the Fiesta’s demise is frustrating when there is a rise in car sales for these vehicle types that the marketplace wants to clear from their respective lots. Has sales figures and profit margins slumped so badly to warrant these decisions? From my understanding the Ford Fiesta was among the top 10 best-sellers in the UK market sometime during this decade.
Auto manufacturers – not just Ford – will have to ask themselves whether it is good business to supplant vehicles, such as the Fiesta, with more crossovers and SUVs. In turn, telling customers that these heavier and pricier replacements will be a good value proposition during the course of their financing plan or lease.
Is there an upshot to all of this? Maybe. The instant nostalgia alone will produce memories of those who have owned Fiestas – especially in the UK. Sadly, the PowerShift transmission practically ruined the Fiesta’s reptation in North America alone to warrant any nostalgic remembrance. That is, unless you have a flawless ST…
When your favorite vehicle is finally put to pasture, always remember that you can take away the vehicle from the lineup, but you cannot take away their memories.
All photos by Randy Stern