Essay : The Ford factor

Ian Nicholls

One of the influential factors in the BMC>MGR story was the success of its main rival, the American-owned UK division of Ford. Back in 1959 Ford UK was managed by Sir Patrick Hennessey, an Irishman who had been a prisoner of the Germans during the First World War.

Ford then only had one main UK car factory, Dagenham in Essex. In the Autumn of 1959, Ford launched its new small car, the distinctive Anglia. The Anglia also had a new power unit, the 997cc Kent engine, which survived the passage of time into the Ka. The Anglia was costed to the last penny in the Ford tradition, and the basic standard version retailed at £589 in September 1959. The Mini, therefore, came as a shock to the men at Dagenham. Not only was the car technically more advanced than anything on the road its basic price of £496 undercut the Anglia by £93, a difference of 15 per cent. Ford resolved to find out how BMC did it.

A team which included future worldwide Ford boss Alex Trotman took apart a Mini and costed every single component. Ford came to the conclusion that the Mini cost about as much to make as the Anglia on which Ford were making roughly £50 profit – in other words, the Mini cost around £539 to manufacture, while it was being sold at £496! Ford even informed BMC of their discovery, but not surprisingly BMC probably suspected Dagenham of skullduggery and declined to raise the retail price of the Mini. Ford could then relax; they would content themselves with selling the Anglia at a profit, while BMC manufactured themselves into oblivion. When Anglia production ceased in November 1967, some 1,288,956 had been made compared to 1,663,539 Minis in the same period.

Terry Beckett and BL's Derek Whittaker consult at the British Motor Show in October 1976... (Picture: Ian Nicholls)
Terry Beckett and BL’s Derek Whittaker consult at the British Motor Show in October 1976… (Picture: Ian Nicholls)

Ford’s next major car was the Cortina. This was the brainchild of Ford UK’s product planner Terry Beckett, and its success was to lead to chairmanship of Ford UK, a knighthood and chairmanship of the CBI. Sir Terence Beckett would say this of the Cortina: ‘The Cortina came in under cost and, most significantly, we did it in record time. I believe we took just 21 months from full-size clay style to Job 1, which was then an all time record for the industry…

‘We decided we needed a bigger body shell and we also needed more wheel movement. We decided that we would provide a proper boot – in a way we overdid that, but it was perfect for a rep who wanted to take samples, and it was perfect for the family motorist.’

The Cortina was aimed at the expanding fleet market, it was designed to be reliable and cheap to run and was sold at a low price, but still enough to make a profit. Ford had astutely researched the car market and produced a product fleet buyers wanted. Fleet buyers were not interested in advanced cars if they were going to be unreliable and spend most of their time in garages being repaired.

For the rest of the 1960s the Cortina battled it out with the BMC 1100/1300 for sales supremacy. In 1966 the re-styled MkII appeared and, in 1970, the larger MkIII. The MkIII correctly anticipated the demand for larger cars and was itself superseded by the MkIV in 1976. A revised version known as the Cortina ’80 or MkV appeared in 1980 before assembly ended in July 1982 after 4,279,079 Cortinas of all types had been made.


Version Years in production Total production
MK1 1962-1966 1,013,391
MK2 1966-1970 1,024,869
MK3 1970-1976 1,126,559
MK4/5 1976-1982 1,131,850

The Cortina in all its guises was offered with a wide variety of engines and trim to suit all conceivable tastes. This contrasts with BMC who originally offered the Mini with only the 850 engine, the ADO16 with an 1100 engine, ADO17 Landcrab with the 1800 engine and the Maxi with the 1500 engine.

As the 1960s progressed, BMC cast envious eyes towards Ford’s impressive profits as their own finances dwindled. This came to a head when in 1965 BMC’s new Managing Director Joe Edwards poached product planner and stylist Roy Haynes from Ford. It was Haynes who had been involved in the development of the MK2 Cortina. Ford’s model range was based on four basic platforms, whereas BMC’s consisted of no less than 26 platforms!

Haynes did produce a product plan for BMC reducing its range to five platforms, but the number of redundancies required in order to see through his plan was unpalatable to senior management. The success of the Cortina prompted BLMC to embark on its own fleet car, the Morris Marina. BLMC underestimated Ford’s willingness to haggle with fleet buyers and, as a result, lost out in the sales war against ‘the Big C’.

In 1968 Ford replaced the Anglia with the rear-wheel-drive Escort built at the new Halewood plant on Merseyside. The Escort recieved a sales boost from its awesome motorsport success. Ford had obtained from BMC, via Castrol, the services of Stuart Turner to mastermind its motorsport programme. The Escort made its rally debut in March 1968 and went on to become one of the greatest rally cars of all time.

Another area where Ford were masters was product placement: macho characters in TV and films drove Fords. The best example being The Professionals, where CI5 boss, Cowley drover a Granada, while action heroes, Bodie and Doyle drove an assortment of Capris and Escort RS2000s. BL cars were usually depicted as being driven by socially inadequate characters like Basil Fawlty (ADO16), Hyacinth and Richard Bucket (Rover 213), Terry and June (Princess) and Alan Partridge (Rover 800) – even the good old Mini ended up as the transportation of the most inadequate of inadequate characters, Mr Bean!

In 1976 Ford at last deemed it was the right time to produce a front-wheel-drive supermini: the Fiesta. Earlier cars such as the Fiat 127 and Renault 5 showed there was demand for a supermini-sized car, and now Ford took advantage of it. Austin’s miniMetro briefly challenged the Fiesta in the early 1980s, but the revised MkII Fiesta of 1983 soon regained the sales advantage.

The front-wheel-drive MkIII Escort appeared in 1980 and was an immediate hit. Productivity at Halewood was initially dire compared to Ford’s German factory. This resulted in some very public critisism of the Merseyside plant from the then Ford UK Chairman, Sam Toy, during 1981. It was Ford’s concept of concentrating on fleet buyers that lead to its success: many in the company worked on the assumption that private buyers, seeing so many Fords on the road and being in ignorance of the company car market, would assume that was because Fords produced great cars. By the early 1980s, Ford had a 33 per cent share of the UK market, though by now some of this was taken up by EU imports. BL’s share was less than 20 per cent, though it hoped to improve it with the forthcoming Maestro and Montego.


In 1982, Ford hit trouble when they launched the Sierra to replace the Cortina. General Motors’ UK arm, Vauxhall, decided to strike. Vauxhall’s J-car, the highly competent Cavalier MkII (above) was a Sierra rival and, to be brutally honest, was a better car. A sales war broke out with the two American-owned giants using their US profits to subsidise their cars in an effort to buy market share. Vauxhall emphasised that the Sierra was still rear-wheel-drive and had dodgy styling, whilst the Cavalier was a modern front-wheel-drive car.

The real loser in this clash of the titans was cash strapped Austin Rover. The Maestro/Montego range, whatever the merits of the cars, simply could not make headway in this economic climate and ARG actually lost second place in the UK market to Vauxhall. This resulted in the defeat of Sir Michael Edwardes’ plan for BL. Maestro/Montego were supposed to generate the profits to fund a next generation of cars. The Thatcher Government lost patience with BL over its inability to turn a profit and a management purge followed.

In 1989, we saw a completely new Ford Fiesta, but also the excellent Rover R8 200, which unlike other advanced Longbridge products sold in large numbers. Ford responded in 1990 with the MkIV Escort, which was considered simply inadequate by critics. The MkIV Escort was Ford’s equivalent of the Austin Allegro; it simply wasn’t good enough, looking like a re-skin of the 1980 MkIII, when an all-new car was needed. Perhaps this was the turning point, as buyers turned towards other brands and Ford’s UK share declined to 18 per cent in 2003. Ford decided to up their game and showed what they could really do with the outstanding Mondeo in 1993 and Focus in 1998.

However, that wasn’t enough. Ford had become victims of their own success, the public saw them as downmarket reps cars. The arrival of Japanese firms manufacturing in the UK gave buyers a wider choice of locally-built products. They could support British industry without buying unreliable Austins, Dagenham dustbins and insipid Vauxhalls.

Ford then tried to counter the decline in popularity of the marque by buying out prestige manufacturers such as Land Rover, Jaguar and Aston Martin. After losing as staggering £892 million in 2001, Ford acted and ceased car production at Dagenham – this, combined with the decision to produce Jaguars at Halewood, means that all new Fords on the road are now as foreign as Alfa Romeo, BMW and Renault etc.

Ian Nicholls
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  1. Ford seemed invincible in the seventies. They had good looking large cars like the Granada and the Capri, and the Escort and Cortina were huge successes in the company car market and as reasonably dependable second hand family cars. Also any mechanic could fix them, parts were cheap and servicing was easy. It’s no wonder they overtook British Leyland in the mid seventies.
    However, they became complacent as the eighties wore on, producing the totally underwhelming Mark 3 Fiesta and ignoring reliability issues with the replacement for the Pinto engine and cutting costs by using reclaimed steel on 87/88 Sierras.

  2. Ford were cynical as I’ve heard a few say. The early Fiestas were very well built until the model became popular then the quality dropped. In the 1980’s if anyone was thinking of buying a Ford they would be told to buy the Belgian Sierra or Escort otherwise they were getting a bag of rust dust.
    We had a 1990 (1989 model) 1.8 CVH Sapphire (Belgian built so no rust) in L trim. Was a very reliable car needing only an exhaust and a couple of sets of brake pads over about 80,000 miles and un-Ford like good mpg, I wrote it off after discovering just how badly Sierras could understeer! Was a good car that people wanted though.
    Generally though Fords of the 1970’s and 80’s had one big problem, they could drink fuel and compared to everything else in the price bracket, ”..can you afford to feed a Ford?..” I remember a good few saying.
    The Sierra was mean’t to be an aerodynamic miracle, so you’d assume good consumption, err… no. The pinto engine was strong but way behind the times and the 1.8 pinto for some reason could really get your mpg to drop below 20!

    Ford needed better engines but they calculated that they could get away with older units. They did know how to make a profit.

  3. Thinking of thirsty Fords, maybe they gave BL/AR a break, how many less Allegros or Maestros would have been sold if Fords of the time had better (regarding consumption) engines?
    The MK2 Escort is now a legend to the point where you can buy every panel for them and build yourself a new MK2. I remember MK2 Escorts in the 1980’s when they were a ropey old 2nd hand car and coming behind one usually mean’t getting poisoned with exhaust fumes. From talking to older mechanics the myth surrounding the oh-so great x-flow Kents gets blown. A high proportion of X-flows fitted to the MK2 Cortina and MK1 Escorts suffered from cracked piston skirts leading to massive oil consumption and even worse fuel bills.

    Ford were cynical, so what if an engine fails? Just replace it under warranty or there is a bit of business for a dealer selling a punter a new engine for his Escort. Ford could have properly bored the engines but likely calculated that they could get away with cutting the cost of machining and the devil may care.
    The X-flow was not a good wearing engine even if you got one bored properly. Ford knew marketing like nobody else. ‘Put your foot down and demand power’ was the slogan for the ’68 (when the X-flow first used) Cortina. The short stroke X-flow gave you a very ‘bursty’ feeling of power when you hit the pedal which was enough to make customers feel impressed with their new Ford and word would spread.
    However even a good X-flow was done after 60-80,000 miles and how I remember laughing at Escorts as soon as they hit a gradient, rrr – down to third – RRRRrrr and if you had a funnel piped to your cars intake the Escort would feed it free fuel! Well sure, Escorts were the best car ever, according to a lot of their fans. No torque, drank petrol and cracked piston skirts. Mind you not many cars had an in-built shower system as standard, the most leaky windshields ever!

  4. @ Pat, I had a 58 plate Fiesta and for all it was reliable and good to drive, the mpg was poor for a 1.3. I was only getting 38 mpg around town and 48 mpg on the open road. It does seem for some reason, unless you get a TDCI, petrol engined Fords are thirsty, sister has the same problem with her 1.6 Focus, struggles to get 38 mpg tops.

  5. At a UK level I was obviously aware that Ford’s once dominant position has long gone. However, I did not realise that it was in such a poor financial position worldwide.

  6. @ Dave Dawson, the modern Fords are vastly better than the rubbish they were churning out 25 years ago, when ironically they had nearly double the market share, it’s just they’re not an aspirational brand these days and buyers have far more choice. Middle management, who would once swoon over a Cortina Ghia, would tell their fleet managers where to go if they were offered a Mondeo Ghia over a German badged car, even though the Mondeo is likely to be as reliable and cheaper to service.

  7. Its said that VW group are heading for world the No.1 spot by 2020, I can’t remember where I heard or read that and if you look at the European sales league VW are in a good position. Lying about the emissions was a big stumble but all that scandal has done is make people buy Skodas instead – A VW with less to go wrong.
    Anyhow perhaps Ford have gotten too far away from their merits, cheap and easy to service. Looking at the new Fords, the Fiesta for example, there is just too much c*** on them really. Who wants all that technology on a car that is mean’t to be reasonably priced. Another thing Ford used to do to get sales was give the cars a good paint job, even though if the chassis number started with SFA that nice paint was covering the cheapest steel they could find. Was in a Ford showroom a few months ago and boy doesn’t the fancy lighting in showrooms these days show up bad finishes. I seen a white Focus and the state of the paint looked like it was sprayed with an aerosol in the wind. Then the herd of sheep styling all new cars have. I for one hate seeing a 45deg line in the bumpers joining the front wing or rear side panels, one little ding and the whole side of the car looks rubbish.

    Maybe Ford should take a leaf out of VW’s book regarding how they position their Skoda range. It would be a sad world if its German and Japanese domination over world production.

    Listen up Henry, hows about an Escort sized car, with ‘only’ 80-90bhp, good heater and nice seats, decent paint job, easy to service that does not need some hyper tuned engine or a pointless over complex suspension. Think Skoda.

    As for todays Fords being drinkers I’ve heard that even the Ford diesels are 5+mpg worse that the Peugeot that uses the same engine. In the 1970’s Ford bolted the cheapest carburetor they could find or make on to the engine, same with the distributors. They are still skimping on engine ancillaries to this day.

  8. @Glenn Aylett
    Long gone are the days where companies would have a fleet manager responsible for buying the company cars for the organisation and allocating them out! Indeed Ford (and to an extent) Vauxhall are still suffering the poor image from those days, so that people think the Mondeo is a company rep’s car, whereas the 3 series is seen as an aspirational car.
    As a result of this, not only do “user choosers” choose the BMW, its desirability means that the resale value is stronger and hence it costs the company less!

  9. @ David Dawson,

    Well, actually, the closing paragraph about the Ford Motor Company’s financial position is no longer factually accurate – I have therefore deleted that paragraph in order to ensure that no other readers as misled.

  10. Ford’s problem is they often employ Arnold Shark to sell their cars, hence their poor reputation for customer service. Obviously Ford like their pile em high, sell em cheap approach, but their customer care is rubbish and they seem clueless when it comes to maintenance.

  11. In the sixties/seventies & part of the eighties, Ford had 30% market share in the UK. Toady they are around 13%, & ironically if you add up all the VW marques they now have combined the biggest market share & dominance just like Ford used to have. After Ford stopped making cars in the UK their market share just plummeted, & in order to keep profit margins up they have resorted to building vehicles in low cost countries like Romania & Turkey.
    After shifting Fiesta production from Dagenham to high cost Cologne,I just wonder how long it will be before they shift Fiesta to the other low cost countries, just to make some money. They could also do what Nissan did in moving Micra production from the UK to India!
    (It wouldn’t effect UK sales because most people still think Ford is a British manufacturer.)

  12. “The Cortina in all its guises was offered with a wide variety of engines and trim to suit all conceivable tastes”

    ^^ This. Ford were masters at making the 1.3L model just good enough for the budget-conscious family guy (while still making a profit on every unit sold), and at the same time making the 2.3 Ghia customer feel like he was king of the hill.

    BMW takes the same approach these days with the 3 and 4 series, and makes a fortune doing so.

  13. Ford’s problem in the UK and Europe also seems to be the absence of a premium marque since selling off Jaguar and Volvo, somewhat surprised they have not considering plans for Lincoln to enter the UK / European markets as their “World Car” Luxury-Premium marque equivalent of Lexus and Infiniti.

    Knew the Mini was costing BMC money due to not being properly costed and being under-priced, yet never knew that the Mini more or less cost about as much to make as the Ford Anglia.

  14. Of course Ford are still big Employers in the UK (particularly the Bridgend engine plant). I have good memories of company Cortina’s & Escorts in the 1970’s. Less good memories of Escorts IV & V. More recently I have owned 3 x Focus, all of which satisfied my needs.

    Yes, Ford have pro’s & cons but overall they are still big players and according to what I read in Auto Express, have big aspirations for their “Vignale” branded models.

  15. I read in a Spanish paper a couple of years ago that all Fiesta production has gone to Germany. In return Spain now has the Mondeo, Galaxy and S-Max ( from the old Belgian plant) plus the Kuga and possibly one or two other vehicles.

  16. Take the Ford costings with a pinch of salt. Ford thought that BMC would have to do the same as they habitually did, and write off the tooling and development costs over a 4 year cycle . Just how wrong can you get ? Those costs PER UNIT , which broadly speaking represent somewhere between 1/3 and 1/2 of the overall costs of production, were overestimated by Ford by, probably, something like 80%, and it does not take Einstein to realise as a result that the Mini in fact probably had a unit cost more like 75% of the cost of an Anglia even when those costs were amortised over even a 20 year life rather than the 40 which actually eventutated

    • I have seen this argument before about the Mini and it does not stand up in my experience.

      When costing a competitor’s product, one of the key answers you are looking for is how long your competitor will need to keep it in production.

      For this reason you are pricing the vehicle for its contribution (Sales price less variable costs), the variable costs is how much it costs to put down the production line with component, assembly costs and consumables (which includes a lot of the tooling, whilst might not incur full expense of retooling a new design, they will wear out so need replacing).

      So I believe that Ford’s conclusion was that BMC was losing money on every Mini that went down the line.

      But we can test this, to see if it was likely

      The Mini with its notoriously expensive to assemble body with its many pressings, and seam welding, plus needing expensive components such as constant velocity joints (the reason Roots went rear engine rout with the Imp), is not going to be cheaper to build than the Anglia.

      BMC never planned that the Mini would be in production for 20 years, they were after all working on its replacement in the late 60s, so they must have planned a product life no greater than ten years.

      The fact that BMC ran out of cash whilst able to sell every Mini and ADO16 it could make suggests something was very wrong with their profitability.

      In conclusion, Ford was almost certainly right that the Mini was unprofitable.

  17. Also the Mini was a big selling car for the first 20 years of its life, the Anglia lasted less than 10 years and was considered old fashioned and no rival to the ADO 16 when it was pensioned off in 1968. I’d say BMC/British Leyland made vastly more in the long term with the Mini, which was a big export earner, than Ford did with the Anglia. Indeed until the Escort arrived, the ADO 16 had it very easy for the first six years of its life and the Mini had no direct rival from Ford.

    • Glenn

      The ADO16 in its first years competed in the same price segment of the market with the Cortina not the Anglia.

      It is a sign of how the market developed around it that the ADO16 then found itself fighting the Escort in the second half of its life.

      This was one of the BMC problems because they were not as Ford were taking advantage of growing affluence by moving their products in higher price segments with the Cortina effectively taking over the Consuls place in the market.

  18. In its early days BL poached a lot of management from Ford (or Ford was glad to see them go) and their influence in developing the Marina is obvious. Most BMC loyalists including engineers and dealers – especially overseas – regarded it with horror and disbelief, as an antiquated contraption and a betrayal of all that BMC had achieved. Considering that the ADO16 was the best-selling car in the UK for 9 years and its target audience was private users, it is at least questionable whether that foray into the cut-throat fleet market was worth the effort.

    The final mistake was with the Ryder report, where the only motor industry man on the panel was from – Ford. Their idea that all BL cars should be named Leyland was pure Ford thinking and flew in the face of common sense. The whole world knew that Leyland was the name of a truck. BL was a GM, with many valuable nameplates, not a Ford with essentially just one (outside the USA). I sometimes wondered if Ford had placed their moles at BL to destroy it from within.

  19. Graham : I think you are confusing contribution to overheads, with recovery of fixed costs ( development and tooling ) . The two are quite different, and one has to have recovery of fixed costs attributable to each unit before there can be any contribution to overheads. BL didn’t run out of cash during the heydays of Mini and ADO16 – it was still very profitable in 1971 , and it was not until the intervention of the idiot Ryder , and the very questionable policies of Stokes, who frankly knew nothing about car manufacturing, that the wheels fell off the wagon

  20. Its easy to forget though that during the “Golden era” of the 1970s when Ford couldn’t build cars fast enough for the UK market, in the rest of Europe it was tanking. The Cortina (Taunus) sold in tiny numbers outside the UK whilst leaf sprung Escorts and Capris where viewed on the continent pretty much the way we viewed Marinas or East European cars – Crude and archaic – no match for the likes of modern European cars then being offered by VW, Fiat or Renault or indeed the more German focused offerings from GM/Opel. The whole of Ford of Europes product strategy was slewed in favour of maintaining UK market share by building basic fleet cars. Bob Lutz was the man that realised pumping out crude, poorly developed cars and selling them at massive discounts for one particular market segment whilst ignoring the rest of the European market was not a sustainable business strategy, hence the 1980 MK3 Escort and 1982 Sierra. The Sierra may have alienated some cheap skate fleet customers in the UK initially, but it had massively more appeal in Europe where sales rocketed compared to the Taunus.

  21. @ Paul, I was in France in 1980 and only saw one Cortina, the French had no interest in Fords, seeing them as unsophisticated compared with their own cars, which seemed to dominate the roads, and probably only fit for British car buyers. Mercifully for British Leyland, Minis seemed a familiar sight in Dieppe, the French no doubt appreciating the low running costs and the clever design.

  22. Ford’s party trick was always to make conventional and sometimes dated technology look good. The Mark 5 Cortina in particular looked a completely up to date and classy looking car, and in Ghia form was a very nice place to be, even if the four cylinder engines were getting on in years and the car was rwd with a simple suspension layout. No way would Ford contemplate something like Hydragas suspension, and on its family cars persisted with rwd until 1993 as it was felt simple was best.
    That said the V6 engines that powered top of the range Cortinas, Granadas and Capris( particularly the 2.8 injection model) were rapid and refined units that proved to be reliable.

  23. One of the things Ford understood better than anyone else, apart from things like marketing and product placement was badge engineering. The only problem was that they only had one badge-the blue oval. So they created their own. The first example was probably the Anglia Super- taking a car from what was refered to at the time as from the ‘the one litre class’ added a larger engine with 25% more power sticking on some extra chrome then charging considerably more for it.
    They then repeated the trick with the Cortina taking things a stage further with the GT. Despite the press being up in arms about the devalueing of the GT badge the public loved the idea of a simple saloon with a bit more poke, loads of dials and a lower, firmer ride. Their next ‘badge’ was the Executive- Zodiac, Corsair, Cortina, Escort and Carpi.
    At the end of the sixties the manufacturers that held a full arsnel of badges at their disposal (British Leyland and Rootes/Chrysler) decided that badge engineering was not the way to go and despite the years of heritage behind them ditched most of their brands. Strangly enough they chose to discard their more upmarket badges such as Riley and Singer and focus their ranges on trim levels of more downmarket or unknown brands. Some examples are the Austin 3-Litre, Chrysler 180, Avenger, Marina and later the Princess. (There were more Wolesley Six’s were sold in 6 months than Princess HLS’ sold in 6 years)
    In the meantime Ford had really got the hang of the badge thing and as they had no MG or Sunbeam to use created the RS range. Since they had nothing of their own to compete with the prestige of Humber or Vanden Plas they then went out and bought an Italian desighn house and created what was possibly the most desirable badge engineered cars of the 70s and 80s- the Ghia.
    Apart from the short lived Humber Sceptre Estate, Chrysler never utilised their brands and it took till the mid 80s for BL to realise the value of the badges they had with the MG saloons and Vanden Plas models.

    • Yes, looking back the Austin 3-litre was a curious bit of marketing. The flagship of the BMC range, but only sold with a non premium badge, when it would have seemed more logical (if they knew it would tank) to just launch it as a Wolseley 3 litre and at least hope to make a bigger profit margin

  24. The problem with marques such as Riley were that their sales were miniscule compared to the larger marques.

    Without the likes of Riley and Wolseley from the late-1950s onwards, would it have been possible for Austin and Morris to be more differentiated from each other?

    For example while Austin would embrace the mostly Pininfarina styled Issigonis FWD cars albeit in hatchback form from the outset in the late-1950s/early-1950s. Morris would within the same period forgo FWD and instead build a pair of low-cost conventional RWD saloons (ideally with fully-independent suspension), loosely derived from the Morris Minor and MG Magnette ZB (and MGB/MGC) with styling by Frua or Pininfarina (albeit with a different styling template) in place of the Morris-badged Issigonis FWD cars and BMC Farina B/C models.

    The Morris 1.3-2.0 litre 4-cylinder saloon rivaling the likes of the Ford Cortina and the Morris 2.0-3.0 litre 4/6-cylinder saloon rivaling the likes of the Opel Commodore as well as both catering to the fleet market, eventually spawning high-performance RWD MG variants above the MG 1100/1300.

    Not quite sure what the best approach would have been to take in continuing to differentiate between Austin and Morris from the early-1970s onwards aside from continuing with the Austin / Advanced FWD Hatchback and Morris / Conventional RWD Saloon policy or pursuing a more revolutionary Austin and evolutionary Morris policy.

    Had such a plan worked well enough to save BMC and in the absence of BL (and Triumph), could Morris have then been taken slightly upmarket in place of the Riley and Wolseley marques in a similar mold to a non-sporting Audi or as Rover later became to MG under MG Rover?

  25. A Ford with a Ghia badge ” most desirable” ? I realise that humour has its place, but there are limits !

  26. Ford was one of the first, if not the first manufacturer to introduce what are now known as PCP’s with the Options plan in the very early 90s. This of course exposed how residual values impact on the whole life cost of a vehicle. They effectively shot themselves in the foot as the likes of BMW, Mercedes and VAG followed their lead and introduced their own finance packages that offered the likes of a 3 series for less monthly outgoings than a Mondeo. The real decline in Ford’s market share aligns with the arrival of PCP finance.

    • The depreciation of new price to first disposal sale is the real cost of ownership, and as you point out more expensive cars can be cheaper to own. In the 1980s it was said that running a new Porsche 911 was less than a Ford Granada provided if you had the Yuppie in the City income for the upfront costs.

  27. Go back to early 1980 and the Cortina outsold the entire British Leyland range. Rather like the AD016 was a decade earlier, the Cortina was everywhere and one in seven new cars sold in 1980 was a Cortina, although mostly to fleets, who were offered 25% discounts on the car and who loved the simple mechanicals and huge range of models from the basic 1.3 for a new sales rep to a 2.3 V6 for a senior manager. Also as there were so many around and every town had a Ford dealer, the Cortina was a popular used car. While not the most reliable car in its class, the Cortina was a simple car for the home mechanic to fix and parts were cheap and easily available, adding to its appeal.

    • Also the Escort & Fiesta were selling well too at this time, & the Granada had eaten into the SD1’s potential market space. Capri sales had probably peaked by this time but were still a bonus.

      • The Mark 2 Granada in partoular was very popular with managers due to its excellent reliability and high equipment levels on GL and Ghia models. Also being one of the cheapest cars in its class made it popular.

    • Yep – another factor in the rise and fall of Ford UK – The company car had its heyday in the 70s and 80s as they were not taxed as BIK and provided a means for employers to circumvent punitive personal tax rates and incomes policies to remunerate employees. Being offered a free car at a time when new cars cost a fortune relative to income, were expensive to finance and likely to breakdown a lot was a big deal. Ford played this market better than anyone and prospered as a result. Company car taxation took off as PCP’s arrived making it a far less attractive perk. Couple that with companies offering allowances instead of cars and the move toward user choosers who no longer could only have a Ford or Vauxhall on company car schemes that remained and another huge tranche of Ford’s UK business was gone.

      • Vauxhall wasn’t a serious competitor until the Cavalier came along, and in particular the Mark 2, which showed the Cortina up as completely old fashioned underneath its modern body and then saw another rise in sales when the radically styled Sierra scared buyers away. Being mostly made in Britain was another reason fleet buyers warmed to the Cavalier, as many companies with a buy British policy who were scared off the Sierra and weren’t attracted to Austin Rover or Talbot had a valid alternative. Then Ford messing up in the late eighties and early nineties with the unreliable new Sierra engines, the reclaimed steel rust scare and the truly dreadful 1990 Escort saw their market share tumble.

      • When did PCPs become a thing in the UK? Heard it was introduced in 1997 under Labour, which ultimately led to the decline of the Mondeo yet how accurate is that view?

        • Ford Options was the first and was launched in 1993, other manufacturers quickly followed suit. This was a commercial product developed by the motor industry and banks and had nothing to do with government policies

          • At the same time Ford launched its Ford Direct used car scheme to recycle nearly new cars pumped into hire fleets etc. essentially they tried to rig the market and shore up residuals but controlling a chunk of used car supply. This coincided with the arrival of the Mondeo that Ford felt was a more premium product than typical rep fodder. By keeping residuals up the Options PCP deals could look more competitive and they could charge higher list price for new cars. Their fingers ended up badly burned

      • Don’t forget income tax rates were really high compared to today, with a basic rate of 35% rising to 83% for the better off, with on;y a modest rise in the threshold for the supertax in the seventies that started to see people like solicitors and senior managers dragged into the top band by the late seventies.( Prior to the seventies, the top band mostly affected the super rich). Those who had to stay in Britain for business reasons in the seventies were offered executive cars like Granadas to get round the supertax.

  28. it’s well known, Ford ruled the roads as company cars particularly in the 70s. The Cortina both as saloon and a huge Estate car back then. The Capri for those Reps who wanted a more sporty looking car that fitted their expense accounts and of course the Directors special Granada’s.

    It wasn’t until the mid/late 70s that Vauxhall challenged the company car sector with Cavalier MK1, though no estate was ready till the MK2. Then the Japanese challenged everyone when Datsun’s & Toyotas gained popularity, though not as many as company cars.

    I remember a chap in the Pub who had a British company car and wanted to get a Datsun 200L Laurel next time but was dis-allowed by his firm who had a British only policy.

  29. Another way Ford saw its sales rise was the use of the Ghia badge on its top of the range cars, which replaced the E and GXL designations in the mid seventies. Sticking these natty looking badges on their cars and giving cars like a humble 1.3 Escort the Ghia treatment with a vinyl roof, velour seats and a wood dashboard stole a march on cars like the Vauxhall Viva, which had no equivalent, and the interior of a Cortina Ghia always looked far classier than a Marina HL, where black plastic abounded. Higher up the range, I reckon with Rover abandoning its traditional wood and leather interiors on the SD1, some buyers must have tempted towards a Granada 2.3 Ghia over the stark and basic Rover 2300.

  30. I’ll go with that Glenn. The MKIV Cortina Ghia replaced the 2000E MKIII and I always liked the look of them with the woody interiors & velour. The run out Cortina Crusaders were decent too.

    A friend had a secondhand Escort MK2 Ghia which, as you say was also a nice range topping car. The nearest then from Vauxhall would be a Viva 1300GLS or Magnum 1800. All better than the BL equivalents (I think anyway)

    • @ Hilton D, there was always the Vanden Plas 1500, but with its weird Allegro body and Daimler limousine grille, looked stupid and spoiled the effect of the wood and leather interior. It seemed Ford knew how to make buyers of Escorts and the like feel special.

  31. The turning point in Ford’s fortunes came in the mid to late eighties, when fleet buyers started to find far better alternativws to the Sierrs( the only serious competitor was the Mark 2 Cavalier at the time). By 1989, fleet managers and taxi firms had the Mark 3 Cavalier, a big leap forward from the Mark 2, Peugeot 405, Citroen BX and Nissan Bluebird as better alternatives to the Sierra, which was developing a reputation for mechanical issues on its new four cylinder models and rust issues on D reg cars due to using reclaimed steel.
    Also the growing popularity of diesel cars worked against Ford, as the diesels used in the Escort and Sierra were harsh and sluggish. Peugeot Citroen led the market with their XUD powered cars and turbo diesels, which could offer over 50 mpg and 110 mph peformance with similar refinement to a 1.6 petrol car. I would say Ford peaked around 1985 in the UK and then a gradual decline kicked in as people realised there were superior cars around that weren’t built to a penny pinching budget.

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