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Ford of Europe GmbH
Type GmbH, subsidiary of Ford
Founded 1967 (1967)
Headquarters Cologne, Germany
Key people
  • John Fleming
    (Chairman and Executive Vice President)
Industry Automotive
Products Automobiles
Employees 69,400 (2009)
Parent Ford Motor Company

Ford of Europe GmbH[1] is the European subsidiary of Ford Motor Company.


See also: Ford Motor Company, Ford of Britain, and Ford Germany

Ford of Europe was founded in 1967 on the merger of the British and German divisions of the Ford Motor Company.

1967-1973: Cortina and Escort

Ford Cortina Mark I 4-door 1965

The first new model launched after the creation of Ford of Europe was the Escort built in England from October 1967, and launched to market later that year. The Escort was a rear-wheel drive small family saloon that took the place of the British Anglia range and was built in both Britain and, from 1970, Germany. It was first available as a two-door saloon and later in estate, van and four-door saloon bodystyles. Power came from 950 cc, 1100 cc and 1300 cc petrol engines. Later there was also a 2000 cc unit which came in the RS2000 performance version and was capable of 110 mph (180 km/h). It quickly became popular with buyers, outselling in the UK key competitors from BMC (later British Leyland), Vauxhall (Opel in Germany) and the Rootes Group. The Escort would never achieve such dominance in Europe's largest auto market, but nevertheless took significant market share from the Opel and Volkswagen competitors of the time.

Ford Europe's second new car launch was the Capri sporting coupe in 1969. Loosely based upon the rear-wheel drive Mk I Escort platform, it came with engines ranging from 1300 cc to 3000 cc and was made in Britain and Germany (with a different range of German V4 and V6 engines), and quickly became popular with buyers who wanted something different from BMC's MGB GT and the Rootes Group's Sunbeam Alpine.

August 1970 saw the launch of the British Mk III Cortina and its German cousin the Taunus (replacing the 12M & 15M). The British and German models were based on the same platform, but had different sheet metal and used engines from their home countries, though both models could be had with the new German-built 2000cc OHC petrol engine. By 1972 the Cortina was the best-selling car in Britain.[2]

In the Spring of 1972, Ford Europe replaced their top of the range models from Britain (Zephyr/Zodiac) and Germany (17M/20M/26M) with the Consul and Granada (large sedan, estate and coupe) which was aimed directly at the Rover P6, Audi 100 and Triumph 2000. It quickly outsold its rivals in many countries and in 1973 was the tenth best-selling car in Britain. Like the Capri and Cortina/Taunus, the early Consuls and Granadas were built in both Britain and Germany, each with a unique range of national engines.

1974-1980: MK 2 Escort and New Fiesta

Ford Fiesta Mark I 1981

A revised Capri II arrived in early 1974, which saw a hatchback replacing the traditional "boot".

Ford launched a MK2 Escort at the start of 1975, with a heavily restyled exterior but an almost identical mechanical design. The entry-level 950 cc engine, which was rare in any country, was discontinued.

In 1975, Ford overtook British Leyland (the combine which included Austin, Morris and Rover) as the most popular make of car in the United Kingdom.[2]

1976 saw Ford Europe enter the mini-car market with its first ever-front model to have a hatchback and front-wheel drive. The Fiesta was built at the Valencia plant in Spain, and came with 950 cc, 1100 cc and 1300 cc petrol engines. It was later available with a 1600 cc unit for the sporty XR2 version. Britain and most of the rest of Europe took to it straight away and it was quickly among the best-selling cars in most of the continent, fighting off competition from the Volkswagen Polo, Citroen Visa, Vauxhall Chevette and Peugeot 104.

1976 also saw the launch of the Cortina MK4 and Taunus, that continued to top the sales charts in Britain[2] and fight off competition from a growing number of equally competent rivals, namely the Vauxhall Cavalier/Opel Ascona and Chrysler Alpine.

Ford launched the Mk II Granada range in September 1977. In 1976, all Granada production had been concentrated to Cologne, Germany. The Consul badge was abandoned in 1975.

The Mk III Capri sporting coupe arrived in 1978. By now Capri production was also concentrated at Cologne.

1980 saw one of the most important car launches in Ford's history. The MK3 Escort went on sale across Britain and Europe in October, with its ultra-modern styling and updated front-wheel drive mechanical layout. It was also available as a hatchback for the first time, with no saloon version on offer. The 2000 cc engine was dropped, and the range-topping Escort was now the XR3 which came with a fuel-injected 1600 cc unit.

1981-1989: Sierra, Orion and New Granada

20 years of Cortina production came to an end in October 1982 with the launch of the new Sierra. The new car retained the traditional rear-wheel drive chassis, perhaps surprisingly at the time when front-wheel drive was becoming almost exclusive in this sector of car. But the real big news about the new launch was its ultramodern aerodynamic styling that was way ahead of its time compared to the competition and particularly the Cortina that it was replacing. Initial sales were disappointing, but demand soon increased and the Sierra was Britain's third best selling car in 1983 - its first full year on sale. It was built in Britain and Belgium, and sold well just about everywhere it went. Cosworth versions of the Sierra were later built, all of which were capable of 150 mph (240 km/h).

1983 saw the seven-year-old Fiesta receive a major facelift that retained the three-door hatchback bodyshell but smoothed out the previously boxy edges to give it a more modern look. The sporty XR2 version was relaunched and power output was increased, as well as receiving the first five-speed gearbox ever fitted to a Fiesta. Also in 1983, Ford caved in to those who had been demanding a saloon version of the successful Escort hatchback (now the best selling car in the world). The saloon derived version of the Escort was named as the Orion, but was aimed more upmarket car than the Escort with no 1.1 litre engined version and only GL and Ghia trim levels. It was almost as long as a Sierra, and many saw it as a true replacement for the traditional Cortina.

Ford launched another ground-breaking new car in May 1985 with its latest version of the Granada. It was based on a stretched version of the Sierra's rear-wheel drive chassis, and was far more modern looking than any other cars in its sector at this time. It was also the world's first volume production car to feature anti-lock brakes as standard. High equipment levels, a comfortable interior and solid build quality ensured that the German-built Granada was a success all over Europe. A saloon version was finally launched in 1989.

Production of the sporty Capri coupe ended in December 1986 after 17 years and there was no replacement, as sporting coupes were less popular at this time following the rise in popularity of fast hatchbacks such as the Ford Escort XR3i, Vauxhall Astra GTE, Peugeot 309 GTI and Volkswagen Golf GTI.

February 1987 saw an all-new Sierra, and the main news of the launch was the long-awaited availability of a four-door saloon version - something that was already available on key rivals like the Austin Montego, Vauxhall Cavalier and the Peugeot 405. The revisions also saw the addition of a Sapphire saloon version, which gave Ford their first saloon car in this sector since the Cortina's demise nearly five years earlier.

An all-new Fiesta was launched in April 1989, and the main news of the launch was the long-awaited availability of a five-door version - something that was already available on key rivals like the Austin Metro, Vauxhall Nova, Fiat Uno, SEAT Ibiza and the Peugeot 205. New to the range were the new 1.0 and 1.1 HCS (High Compression Swirl) petrol engines which ran alongside the tried-and-tested 1.3 and 1.4 units. There was also a 1.8 diesel as well as the 1.6 fuel injected XR2i and RS Turbo sports models. Upmarket Ghia models were the first versions of the Fiesta to feature items such as electric windows and anti-lock brakes.

For much of the 1980s, the Ford Escort was the most popular model of car in the world, and from 1982 to 1989 it was the best selling new car in the UK every year. Despite a facelift in March 1986, it was started to look a little dated by the end of the decade in the face of newer rivals like the Rover 200, Peugeot 309, Fiat Tipo and Vauxhall Astra.

1990-1997: Driven by you

Ford Escort RS Cosworth Mark V 1996

The fourth generation Escort was launched in September 1990, along with the Orion saloon, but the motoring public and press gave it mixed views. The car's styling lacked the flair of some rivals, and its driving experience was hardly the last word in excitement. The standard Escort models were later joined by the RS2000 and RS Cosworth performance versions that attracted a much more positive reaction. The RS2000 nameplate had been abandoned back in 1990 and the new version was undoubtedly the best, with its 2.0 16-valve Zetec engine and four-wheel drive, as well as its impressive top speed of more than 130 mph (210 km/h). The RS Cosworth was a turbocharged version of the RS2000 and had a top speed of 150 mph (240 km/h) which helped bolster its fortunes in international rallies.

In spite of this, and impressive new models being launched by rival companies Vauxhall and Rover, Ford were still firmly positioned at the top of the British car sales charts in the early 1990s. They even enlisted the help of Brian May to record a new song - Driven by you - which featured in their new TV advertising campaign for the whole Ford range in the UK.

Ford responded to criticism of the Escort's shortcomings in September 1992 with a minor facelift which saw the introduction of impressive new 1.4, 1.6 and 1.8 Zetec 16-valve units, the latter of which also found its way into the Fiesta RS1800. The Orion also received similar improvements, only for the name to be shelved a year later and the saloon models absorbed into the Escort range.

For 1993, Ford introduced a standard driver's airbag on all production models, with many cars also coming with a passenger airbag as either standard or optional equipment.

February 1993 saw Ford launch a ground-breaking new family car in the shape of the Mondeo - replacement for the Sierra made to rival the newer Opel Vectra/Vauxhall Cavalier, Peugeot 405 and Nissan Primera. Finally making the transition to front-wheel drive, the Mondeo came with a strong range of 16-valve Zetec petrol engines as well as a 2.5 V6 that joined the line-up in 1994. Hatchback, saloon and estate versions made up the range which won European Car of the Year accolade later the year. On its launch, it was hard to find a better-handling front-wheel drive volume production car in Europe. 1994 was also the year where Ford regained leadership of the large family car sector market in Britain in terms of sales, as the Vauxhall Cavalier had been the best seller of this size for the previous four years.

Ford re-entered the coupe market in early 1994 with its American-built, Mazda-based Probe. Available with 2.0 16-valve and 2.5 V6 petrol engines, the Probe was fun to drive but failed to sell as well as Ford might have hoped.

1995 saw Ford update its Fiesta and Escort ranges to keep them on the pace with the ever-growing number of new rivals that were threatening to decimate Ford's market share. Another new car launch that year was the Galaxy multi-purpose vehicle, which quickly went straight to the top of the people carrier sales charts.

Ford entered the city car market in 1996 with its oddly-named and oddly-styled Ka, and was beaten into 2nd Place in the 1997 European Car of the Year award by the Renault Scenic. It made use of the Fiesta's chassis and 1300 cc petrol engine, which gave it strong handling for such a small car. Going against the appeal were its cramped rear seats and tiny boot. Around the same time, the Mondeo gained a facelift which saw the exterior styling brought up to date and the seating re-designed to improve space for rear seat passengers.

The Fiesta chassis also spawned the stylish Puma coupe in 1997, which included the Fiesta's 1.4 engine as well as its own 1.7 unit. The Puma won plaudits for its distinctive looks and brilliant driving experience, with the cramped rear seats being the only real let-down.

Ford pulled out of the executive car market in May 1998 upon the demise of its Scorpio, which had replaced the Granada three years earlier. As well as a Europe-wide from mainstream brands to prestige brands during the 1990s, the Scorpio's situation was hardly helped by its controversial styling which was quite unlike anything else ever seen wearing the famous blue oval badge - in Europe at least.

1998-2003: New Edge design

Ford Focus Mark I 2001

Around the year 2000, Ford adopted a distinctive "New Edge" design on its model range. Some of the cars adopting this eye-catching new look were entirely new, while others were facelifted versions of earlier and more conservative designs.

Main article: New Edge

The end was in sight for the Escort in 1998 when its distinctively-styled successor, the Focus, went on sale. As the Focus looked quite unlike anything else on the road at the time of its launch, Ford kept the Escort in production until July 2000 to allow customers to become used to the new car's unique styling. But Ford need not have worried about the public's reaction to the new Focus, it would become European car of the Year on more than one occasion. At the height of its production there was a new Ford Focus coming off a production line at an average of one every 12 seconds (Saarlouis, Germany; Valencia, Spain; Wayne, Michigan USA; Hermosillo, Mexico).

1998 also saw the launch of the Probe's replacement: the Cougar. Like its predecessor, the Probe was built in America and used 2.0 and 2.5 petrol engines. Unlike its predecessor, it was based on the front-wheel drive chassis of the Mondeo. It was very spacious for a coupe, and offered superb roadholding and cruising ability. Sales were relatively low in Europe and it was dropped in Europe after 2000, with sales limited to its home market.

The aging Fiesta received its second facelift in the autumn of 1999, and continued to attract huge sales thanks to its excellent ride and handling that disguised its age well. The interior was, by now, one of the smartest in the supermini sector, though interior space - particularly in the back - was far from the best. This shortcoming was solved at the start of 2002 when the all-new Fiesta went on sale. This new Fiesta was to be built at Ford Cologne and Ford Valencia, each plant producing one Fiest every 27 seconds. This also marked the end of Ford passenger car production in the UK after some 90 years, though commercial vehicles continued to be produced at Dagenham alongside the engine assembly for the passenger vehicles.

The Ford Mondeo was relaunched in an all-new format at the end of 2000, and was pipped for the European Car of the Year award by the Alfa Romeo 147. The new Mondeo was more competitively priced than its predecessor, but its real strengths were its excellent accommodation and driving experience which put it back on top of the large family car sector. Although demand for cars of this size dipped slightly across Europe during the 2000s, the Mondeo remained Britain's most popular large family car, until 2007, when it was outsold by the facelifted Vauxhall Vectra.

The demise of the Puma in early 2002 left Ford without a competitor in the coupe sector once more.

Ford entered the expanding compact MPV market in late 2003 with the Ford Focus C-Max, which was - unusually - the first car on the platform that would spawn the next generation Focus hatchback a year later.

2004-present: Kinetic Design

Ford Fiesta Mark VI 2008

The second generation Focus hatchback, saloon and estate ranges went on sale in December 2004, picking up where the old model left off. Excellent ride and handling, good equipment levels, solid build quality and a comfortable interior all won praise for those who experienced the new car. The only major criticism of the Focus was its unoriginal style which differed little from that of its predecessor.

2006 saw Ford launch two new people carriers - the S-MAX and the Galaxy MK2. Both cars used the same underpinnings, but the S-MAX was a cheaper and sportier alternative to the more upmarket and practical Galaxy. The S-MAX then became the first full-size people carrier to be voted European Car of the Year.

Main article: Kinetic Design

Launch of the third generation Mondeo is due later in 2007, and in a bid to boost popularity of cars in this sector, Ford is making the Mondeo more affordable by re-instating the 1.6 petrol engine option.

Replacements for the Fiesta and Ka were released before the end of the decade (2010).

In 2005, Ford celebrated its 30th anniversary as Britain's most popular car brand. The Focus was the country's top selling car, while the Fiesta occupied fifth place and the Mondeo ninth. In spite of this, the gap between Ford and its competitors was about as narrow as it had ever been, with Vauxhall and Renault just a short margin behind Ford in sales figures.

In 2008, Ford acquired a majority stake in Automobile Craiova, Romania. Ford Transit Connect is Ford's first model produced in Craiova, and, in the near future, will be followed by a new small class car and a small displacement, advanced petrol engine.[3]


The Commercial vehicles arm of Ford of Britain, was part of the division till it was sold to Iveco division of the Fiat group of Italy in 1986, and whose last significant models were the Transcontinental and the Cargo. Ford has planned to build the European version F-Series pickup trucks in Germany for the European market.


The Production of tractors in Europe by Ford has ceased following the sale of the division to Fiat in 1993 and the name changed from Ford New Holland to New Holland. New Holland Ag is now part of CNH Global. Tractor production had been based at the Antwerp and Basildon factories.

Principal European facilities

The company has its major test track at the Lommel Proving Grounds in Belgium.

Assembly Plants

Full list at Ford Media[4]
Plant City Country Total Employees Current Products Year Opened
Automobile Craiova Craiova Romania Romania 3,900 Transit Connect 1976
Bridgend Engine Bridgend Wales Wales 1,972 EcoBoost engine 1980
Cologne Body & Assembly Cologne Germany Germany 4,405 Fiesta, Fusion 1931
Ford Otosan Assembly Kocaeli TurkeyTurkey 7,534 Transit, Transit Connect 2001
Ford Vsevolozhsk Assembly Saint Petersburg Russia Russia 2,665 Focus, Mondeo 2002
Genk Body & Assembly Genk Belgium Belgium 4,731 Galaxy, Mondeo, S-Max 1964
Saarlouis Body & Assembly Saarlouis Germany Germany 6,524 C-Max, Focus, Kuga, F-Series 1970
Southampton Body & Assembly Southampton England England 1,120 Transit 1953
Valencia Body & Assembly Valencia Spain Spain 6,180 Fiesta, Focus, C-Max, Grand C-Max 1976
Former plants
  • Ford Cork plant - Assembly of CKD trucks and tractor manufacture, in the 1920s
  • Ford Basildon factory - assembly of tractors - sold to Fiat with the Ford tractor line.

See also


  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders Limited (May 2005). "Motor Industry Facts - 2005". Retrieved on 3 September 2009.
  3. "Ford begins Transit Connect production at its new plant in Craiova, Romania". (September 8, 2009). Retrieved on September 12, 2009.
  4. "Ford Motor Company Newsroom FORD STRENGTHENS FURTHER ITS POSITION IN EUROPE". Retrieved on 2009-09-15.

External links

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