Ford announced months ago that it would stop building the Fiesta this summer. It has been a model that has marked an entire era, being active for almost five decades and managing to accumulate sales of over 22 million units during that time.
To discover its origins, you have to travel back to the United States in the early 1970s, a time when the three big North American manufacturers (General Motors, Chrysler and Ford) roamed freely in a country dominated by big, powerful cars. Were staying wheel drive, without considering the existence of small utility cars that were gaining a foothold in other markets such as Europe.
But one innocent holiday changed the course of history. During a trip to Rome with his wife, Henry Ford II rented a Fiat 127 to drive around, impressing him with its maneuverability and efficiency. A pleasant experience, as will be seen later, will leave its mark on the grandson of the founder of the brand.
And it is that, back at its headquarters in Detroit, Ford overcame the reluctance of its managers, who refused to manufacture small cars because of their low profit margins, and promoted an unprecedented project called the Bobcat.
It was then that the Blue Oval brand conducted the largest market study to date to explore the commercial potential of a car smaller than the Escort of the time, and which would soon begin its development under maximum secrecy.
The first Fiesta units were produced in Valencia (1976).
The two teams of engineers then began working together, taking the Fiat 127 as a starting point, and while the first developed its own engine adapted to the Italian chassis, the second adapted its front-wheel drive mechanics. For did the same with a suitable chassis. , An uncommon technology in the brand’s models with the sole exception of the Taunus, a sedan that Ford had long been building in Germany.
Meanwhile, all models of the time that would compete with the future Bobcat (Honda Civic, Peugeot 104, Renault 5…) were carefully broken down by engineers to further accommodate the manufacturing cost of each part and component.
Fiesta Ghia (1983).
Decisive factory of valencia
With its eyes on the world market and especially the European one, the production of the new model was expected from the beginning to exceed 500,000 units per year and its distribution would follow a global approach, which would lead to the two pre-existing factories being initially allocated Should have done: the Ford plant in Saarlouis (Germany) was expanded, and the one in Dagenham (United Kingdom) was renovated to meet the new requirements.
XR2i Sports Edition (1989).
But faced with such an ambitious project, they would not be enough to meet the expected figures, and it was at this point that Ford decided to set up a third factory in the Valencian town of Almusafes, which was close to Fiesta’s history. I will be decisive.
Meanwhile, the Bobcat project was taking its final forms. A compact 3.5 m long body housed a 1.0 four-cylinder front engine with a power of 40 hp in the transverse position. It weighed only 700 kg and reached a speed of 130 km/h.
An innovative car
In addition, the new Ford incorporated innovative technologies in the segment into its concept. For example, a front axle designed by former Ford president himself, Earl S. McPherson, and introduced a rear axle with a new stabilization system. As for body protection, it will be one of the first cars developed with computer simulations, which will improve its resistance to impacts.
The new utility also provided highly refined aerodynamics (Cx = 0.42), which combined with its lightness led to a very limited consumption for the time (5.6 l/100 km), another characteristic that had proved its commercial success during the first oil crisis. strengthen the claim. From the wars waged by Israel against Syria and Egypt in the early seventies.
Tempered safety glass, roll-up and adjustable belts or heated rear windows were standard from earlier versions. And the list of optional equipment, which included offerings such as a practical sunroof, equaled that of cars in higher segments for the first time in the category.
Fiesta Active (2017).
First global model
Finally, the Bobcat was ready for launch and only its marketing name remained to be decided. After several discussions among Ford executives and consideration of other names such as Bravo, company president Henry Ford II, who had personally promoted the project, agreed to launch the brand’s first model specifically conceived. The issue was resolved by choosing the name Fiesta instead. for global market.
Several versions with different personalities were soon introduced, such as the sporty S (examples being the famous XR2 and the current ST), the more luxurious Ghia or various commercial versions with greater towing capacity.
Over time, the Fiesta became a famous rally car, driven by champions such as Ari Vatanen, from its first generation. With him, Sébastien Ogier became world champion in 2017 and 2018.
Fiesta WRC (2018).
Throughout its development, the Fiesta has achieved important milestones in automobile history, such as being the first in its segment to offer a diesel engine (1984), the inclusion of anti-lock braking ABS (1989) and passenger airbags to offer (1994).
The Fiesta entered the market in 1976 simultaneously in Europe and the United States and, in addition to the European factories, was also assembled in other plants that were opened successively in Mexico, Brazil, China and South Africa. Since then, 47 years have passed in which the Ford Fiesta has evolved through eight generations to the current generation, which will be the last for this little giant, Ford.
The last seven generations of the Fiesta in front of the Dagenham factory (United Kingdom).