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Ford of Europe GmbH is the principal European subsidiary of Ford Motor Company.

History

Ford of Europe was founded in 1967 on the merger of the British and German divisions of the Ford Motor Company. The original Ford Transit range of panel vans launched in 1965, was the first formal co-operation between the two entities, simultaneously developed to replace the German Ford Taunus Transit and the British Ford Thames 400E. Prior to this, the two companies had been direct competitors with totally separate product lines, despite being owned by by the same American parent, in a similar manner to General Motors’ Opel and Vauxhall subsidiaries at the same time.

1967-1973: Cortina and Escort

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.

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

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.

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, Citroën 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 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.

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