Opinion : Are we witnessing a changing of the guard?

It seems odd sitting here at the end of January 2022 looking at the a Top Ten list of last year’s UK bestsellers and seeing that’s not headed by a Ford model. The Vauxhall Corsa ruled the roost in 2021, with the Tesla Model 3 coming in second place, and the highest-placed Ford – the Puma – coming in eighth position. The Focus and Fiesta? Not in the Top Ten. Wow…

I reckon that this is the first time this has happened in the year-end chart since the Ford Cortina Mk3 found its feet in 1972 and really started flying out of the showrooms. Since then, the Cortina, the Escort, Focus Mk1 and Fiesta have all best UK bestsellers, sealing Ford’s hegemony at the top of the charts and maintaining its position as the nation’s favourite. So ensconced as the maker of the nation’s favourite cars, in the glory days of the late-1970s and early-’80s, the Ford Cortina regularly took up to 15% of the UK market by itself.

I remember a point in the 1980s, when Ford’s overall market share was 33% – a single-maker domination not experienced here since the formation of British Leyland in 1968, where our colossus achieved a 40% share. Moreover, considering that was with multiple marques and models, Ford’s achievement in the mid-1980s with the Fiesta, Escort, Orion, Capri, Sierra and Granada was really rather impressive.

The UK market was, of course, far less diverse back then, and company car lists often featured one manufacturer, with the concept of a user-chooser, a completely alien one. And the car market in 2021 was supremely challenged by a series of lockdowns, the after-effects of Brexit and, most importantly, the global semi-conductor shortage, which has hit Ford particularly hard. That said, the Corsa was trading blows with the Fiesta before the current situation kicked off, while the Focus was getting stuffed by the Volkswagen Golf in the medium hatchback class.

The sight of Ford languishing in the charts like this is still a sad one to see and, of course, you could say it’s reaping what it sowed. It’s not the UK powerhouse it once was, with car production long since gone and van assembly heading to Turkey with the arrival of the current-generation Transit.  The Dunton Technical Centre remains, but the the imposing HQ building in Warley has been sold and is now residential housing.

So, is it over for Ford as a sales power house in the UK? When buyers shift their habits and change manufacturers, it’s usually bad news for the incumbent – once someone changes their behaviour, they’re more likely to change again. So, all those newly-installed Vauxhall Corsa owners will be less likely to buy a Ford Fiesta the next time around even if they do decide to change again. In other words, once you’ve experienced the other side, you’re unlikely to go back to your old ways.

Ford’s product line-up isn’t what it was either. The Fiesta is as good as it ever was, but the rivals have made greater strides – most notably the Vauxhall Corsa is no longer the clunker it once was. The Focus, once a commercial powerhouse, is now overshadowed by the Volkswagen Golf – and it looks like the 2022 Vauxhall Astra will make things even more difficult. The Focus gets facelifted later this year (pictured above), but will it be enough to ensure a come back? We shall see.

SUV buyers have also been proven to be less brand loyal than others – so, as they increase in popularity (they’re already sweeping aside all others), expect the market to continue to splinter and fracture. It also means we don’t get the next Ford Mondeo (pictured top and bottom) – the company has surrendered the D-segment saloon/hatch to the premium manufacturers. One wonders who would have bought it had it been sold here.

However, it isn’t all bad news for Ford. Although it has been a poor year in car sales for Uncle Henry, the Transit Custom was the best-selling van. In fact, it was the best-selling vehicle overall in 2021, with the popular medium van outselling even the Vauxhall Corsa. A sign of things to come perhaps?

Keith Adams
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82 Comments

  1. I think that with electric car performance the petrol hold has now changed so the cars like the RS will peter out and this will bring a loss in sales of the lesser models. What I am certain is a manufacture brings a bare bones stock electric car for less than 10000 with a range of 250 miles and top speed of 80 mph it would be a game changer. Especially if it could be financed at 0% interest.

    • Is there ANY car available for less than £10k let alone an EV, it will NEVER happen, not a decent sized car, with the necessary safety equipment that cars must have these days, the days of “cheap” new cars is gone, not with all these new regs and Laws about safety etc

      • The small car has been abandoned by about 50% of the manufacturers who sell in the UK, goodbye Nissan Pixo, Vauxhall Viva, Ford Ka, the dealers found them to be “hard work” lots of effort to sell for next to nothing in profits. In fact forget £10k, with even £20k your choice is very limited, The 2021 new-look Dacia Sandero just about matches your £10K benchmark, a trusted friend in the 50 years in business, with a senior position and many manufacturer connections tells me they are decent reliable cars and worth considering, his advice to me has never been wrong in the past

        • I remember a Nissan salesman telling me he didn’t like selling Pixos as they were just badge engineered Suzukis & he could hardly fit inside one. He was quite glad when Nissan dropped them.

      • How long did cheap cars last in the past though? (or any car for that matter). The bodywork of modern cars is far more durable than anything pre-1990 and many cars pre-2010. EVs are simpler than ICE cars and its mainly the battery that’s keeping the price up. That’s an area that’s subject to intense research at the moment so although even the best EVs leave a lot to be desired in this regard (expensive, heavy, precious-metals intensive) it’s entirely plausible this will improve. With modern durable bodies and the main components (battery and motor) relatively easy to swap out should they go wrong or wear out, EVs ought to be a much better bet moving forwards for cost-effective purchase and running than the cheap ICE cars of the past. What’s likely to be their undoing would be the same as so many other things – built-in obsolescence. I think there’s a cottoning-on that that’s unacceptable, though, so hopefully won’t be as big an issue for future EV cars as it is with, say, today’s washing machines.

        I’m not convinced modern cars are hugely more expensive than before anyway. The cheap cars in this list from the 60s, 70s and 80s (https://www.motoringresearch.com/features/cost-car-year-born/) aren’t dissimilar – adjusted for inflation – to current cars (and the 2CV and Lada Riva listed as the cheap 1980s cars were very old designs and considered pretty hopeless even by contemporary standards). Mid-range the cars are comparatively more expensive but when they’re capable of lasting significantly longer that seems reasonable? And compare to the cost of a house. A cheap 1960s or 70s car was around 1/6 to 1/4 the average UK house price. These days it’d be less than 1/20th (https://www.loveproperty.com/gallerylist/55171/uk-house-prices-from-the-year-you-were-born-to-today). I think goes to show how difficult it is to meaningfully compare costs with the past.

    • I’m sure they would prefer the GL/Zetec/SE/Premium for another few grand with alloy wheels, sporty seat trim, air conditioning and bluetooth – Nobody buys basic petrol or diesels and they wont want to go hair shirt in a BEV either.

  2. Ford has been a pretty boring brand for years – I’ve never quite understood how it managed to sell so many cars – who wants to be driving the 75th Fiesta to be parked in the local supermarket at any given moment? The Focus has turned into a very bland also-ran from the game changing segment leader it’s original created – no longer is it enough to say how marvellous Fords drive or handle – they have to have more character than a tub of margarine. There is a glimmer of hope with the Puma, undeniably far less interesting than its predecessor but certainly Ford’s only market friendly contender. I can’t understand why Ford has been so slow to catch up with the market much less keep ahead of it which they managed to do so well for so long. It’s a stark reminder that staying at the top should never be taken for granted. Remember Austin or Morris? Remember Microsoft Internet Explorer? Remember Hoover? Remember BlackBerry? Remember Yahoo? Outside of America, I’d say Ford is finished.

  3. The rise of Tesla is astonishing. Consider the investment and skills required to not only set up a new brand but to do it with high-end products and become the market leader in a whole new segment. On a level with Apple I think. We’ll see how the rest of the industry copes but perhaps expect a few Blackberry or Nokia moments in years to come.
    Yes, the times they are a-changing.

    • Apple had their bedrock of Macs before they branched out into their iPhone, Pod, Pad, so they didn’t come from nothing.

      Nokia made a bad mistake by ignoring Android in favour of their own smart system, only for most of the other mobiles manufacturers to go with it.

      Remember Hoover shot themselves in the foot with the free flights offer which they never really recovered from.

      • Apple didn’t technically come from nothing, although given it was close to bankruptcy in the late 90s and lacked practically everything it has now in terms of online / software services, range of products and image it came from very close to nothing. Its current success and products (especially iOS X and iPhone OS) owe more to Steve Jobs second tenure, NeXT and Jony Ive than they do to Apple itself in the 90s. The original iMac was relatively successful, particularly at turning the company’s image around, and will no doubt have provided initial development funding for iTunes and the iPod, but it’s debatable whether Apple would exist today if they’d not completely remade themselves as a media and personal device supplier. Macs are a minor part of this equation these days, desirable for the company’s image but almost certainly only sustainable because they can be derived from the efforts put into iPhone and iPad design.

        Tesla didn’t really come from nothing either. The Model S was an impressive leap in capability for the company but like Apple’s original iMac, Tesla’s original car (roadster) was the application of a few key technologies tacked to a well-proven base. Lotus’s design ethos and experience stretches back rather further than Apple’s. Whilst Jobs brought past experience and his NeXT company, Musk brought money and a knack for raising more. Both are / were risk-takers, both recognised how best to target their market in a novel way, both understood the importance of getting a product that people desire rather than just need (Teslas are arguably comparable to Apple in a way the Nissan Leaf is to Dell) and both are clearly good talent-spotters – most obviously Jobs given Apple’s continued success and the prominence of Jony Ive and Tim Cook in it. I’m no worshipper at the altar of either’s cult of personality – their flaws and the damage from them is well documented online, as is the damage from some of their business practices – but their companies, both routinely described as being built up against the odds (and at odds with contemporary approaches), are interesting.

  4. Remember Hoover? I have two vacuum cleaners: a battery powered Vax Air Cordless; and a mains Hoover Turbo Power. Both obtained through Bournemouth Freecycle in the past few years. The Vax is lightweight and ideal for a quick whipround; the Hoover is the most powerful vacuum cleaner I have ever owned. It sticks itself to the carpets and to the kitchen’s vinyl floor covering. As for popular or unpopular cars, I had no problems when I saw umpteen Hillman Minxes or Hunters in car parks. Or Ford Escorts and VW Golfs. Not so many Foxes around – but, so what?

    • Oh yes, I use Firefox as my browser, and Yahoo! when searching the internet. Only Google when I have to.

    • The point being that Hoover were one the dominant brand in the U.K. – they are now a manufacturer of incredibly cheap, Chinese made products with no USP whatsoever and they have low market share as a result. We’ve still got an original Turbopower from the very early 90’s and it’s far better than anything we’ve had a one – you could say the same about certain Fords…

  5. Ford still have the best selling vehicle in the UK as the article says. They focussed their supplies of key electronics on that by the looks of things. The market is very dissipated across a larger number brands and sub-brands these days. New cars are generally very competent but there is less distinction between the brands now. I see this trend continuing. Tesla have been remarkable for a start up. Where I work we have five company cars, four of them are Teslas. As the incentives to go electric are wound back and the taxation (in some form or another) ramps to replace fuel duty it will be interesting to see how the market evolves

  6. To be fair, the decline in Ford car sales is partially something they’ve chosen, as with the shortage of chips they have chosen to prioritise more profitable commercial vehicles over cars. The numbers of Transits they’ve shifted is stellar, 53k of the Custom, and 34k of the big version.

    It is still shocking though how Ford has declined from its position of dominance. I think they’ve suffered from a lack of platform sharing, when compared to its rivals VW, Stellantis and Renault/Nissan. I bet they wish they still had Volvo to give them a premium brand for smaller vehicles.

  7. Ford were always a budget car, made them cheap & sold them high, it’s an American tradition. I always thought Fords were overrated, as are VW’s today.

  8. I’ve only ever owned one Ford a B-Max,it had endless electrical problems that couldn’t be solved by the dealer and I got shot of it after less than eight months The whole aftersales support put me off considering buying another Ford.I traded it in for a Subaru XV and never had any problems with that at all

  9. Funny how the facts and figures can contradict the evidence of one’s own eyes. I was very surprised to read that the Fiesta was now absent from the the top ten in the sales chart. They seem to be absolutely everywhere, around here at least. Lots of low powered models, the rear drums visible behind the alloys, dressed up to resemble STs. Mind you, Ford definitely gaffed when they re-styled the rear end, losing the high mounted lights in favour of very undistinguished rectangular units.

  10. I think the problem Ford has is that their current crop of cars are simply not very exciting. The only car that I can give a second look is the Focus and perhaps the Puma, until someone told me they’re boring to drive. A mate has either a Galaxy or an S-Max (I can’t tell the difference between them) and it’s more a nice people moving appliance than a car. The latest Fiesta has no character at all.

    Meanwhile, another mate just bought a Toyota Rav 4 and it’s amazing. It’s huge, sure, but very nicely laid out inside and has actual buttons for things on the dashboard, which I personally appreciate. I quite like the look of the new Citroens and Peugeots.

    I used to really like Fords, having had a Sierra and Mk III and Mk IV Mondeos. The Mk III was brilliant fun to drive and only a 1.8. Loved the Sierra too.

    As an aside, where did these pictures of the Mondeo come from? Is this a facelift of the current car, of which production will soon stop, or a model we will never get to see? I like it.

    • Apparently it’s a China only sedan (saloon, Hatch) version of the China only Evos SUV so won’t be sold in Europe or the US.
      It seems that as everyone prefers SUV’s that it not worth Ford’s time and effort to produce a large family car in a market where the few that want such a thing want a “premium” product and not some up to date version of a Cortina like their dad had. Not sure what I will do but won’t be buying any of the new SUV’s I can afford, hideous. I may get a Facelift Focus Mk11 for £1500 quid ish and keep the £25k in the bank and have a few really nice hols with it.

  11. A great shock? / surprise? that Ford is not high in the sales figures as it once was. I am currently on my fourth Focus, year 2017, but don’t really fancy the current version. Nor does the Puma appeal to me and certainly not the Kuga or any other brand Crossover SUV. It must be my age but I still find pictures of MKIV Cortina’s, MK1 Cavaliers and other late 70s / early 80s cars more to my liking.

    I have in the past considered buying a Golf but found the Focus’s (and my R45 & MG ZS) were better equipped for less cash – perhaps that perception will change next time round

  12. How the mighty are fallen. My first company car was a 950 Fiesta Popular back in 1983, when I was 22. I progressed up the fleet car ladder with Mk3 and Escorts, and a Sierra Sapphire. I haven’t spent my own money on a Ford, ever. Why? Well, in spite of Ford’s brilliant marketing machine and having Ford Fleet throw long term “drive appraisal” Sierra Ghias, XR3i, and Granadas at us like confetti, they totally failed to address the biggest issue; the apalling, sometimes downright surly and uncaring, attitude of the staff in some of the dealerships.
    When the company changed hands and went to a more “user chooser” approach to company cars in about 1989 most us turned our back on Ford in favour of the new Cavalier and Astra, Mazda 626, Rover R8 and BMW or Jag for senior staff. This was something we were actively encouraged to do, as even then, our accountants had concerns over the residual values of the blue oval’s products.
    I’d say that this decline has been a long time coming with the “suits” in the US becoming ever-more inward-looking. The disposal of the premier vehicles group is looking like a very big error of judgement.

    • I totally agree, Ford garages in general are scruffy places with scruffy staff who think they are doing you a favour. Its time Ford reinvented the buying experience… thats the way to sell products and keep the customers coming back

      • If that’s your experience, then fair enough but these days, salespeople often move about relatively frequently.

        Group to group, brand to brand. One month a salesperson might be selling Fords for Stoneacre and then the next month Nissans for West Way. The same to a lesser extent with managers, technicians, admin staff.

        Day to day dealership operations, policies & standards are more a matter for Vertu, Pendragon, Lookers, Inchcape etc, than Ford, Stellantis, VAG or Honda et al.

        I have heard of many occasions where a customer has been unhappy with a dealer’s service and gone to the manufacturer (to put pressure on to sort the matter out) who have basically said it’s a business issue for that dealer group & done nothing (not saying this happens every time).

        So basically, I think you can’t realistically generalise which car brand has the best or worst dealers when there are so many variables involved.

        • It wasn’t just sales staff, it was the service reception staff as well. Miserable, unhelpful and uncaring didn’t even begin to cover it. I had an ongoing intermittent fault with one of my Escorts (under warranty) and was, frankly, treated like an idiot. I was not alone in this.
          A few years later I encountered one of these little rays of sunshine working at a Volvo dealership, it was as if he’d had a personality transplant.

      • @ Serialbuyer, locally the only Ford dealer now is Arnold Clark. Their dealership is like a branch of Aldi. with everything packed together( no disrespect to Aldi, but this is a car dealership, not a supermarket) and staff who browbeat customers into buying as soon as they walk in the door. While Arnold Clark appear cheaper to buy from than a smaller dealership, this is offset by rotten trade ins and high interest rates on car finance if you buy used. Then there is the awful after sales experience, where there are numerous tales of work not being done correctly and work being invented to make money. No wonder I have never considered buying a Ford in recent years, and buy Skodas from a trusted family dealership.

  13. My car-owning history is almost the opposite of what is happening now.

    My first cars (starting in the late 70s) were almost always Vauxhalls or Opels…..mainly because Fords were everywhere and I wanted to be different. My attitude was “I want something which isn’t a Ford, simply because that’s what everyone else has”. So for around 25 years I deliberately never owned one.

    Eventually I decided to try Ford in 1999, and had a Mk 1 Focus, – I’d been impressed by all the good reviews I’d seen. It was superb; the best car I’ve ever owned and driven. I kept it 6 years, longer than any previous car. I later had a Mk2 Focus but somehow it wasn’t as good; and since then I’ve been with Toyota..

    • Your comment about avoiding Fords, because that’s what everybody drives, chimes with my attitude to car ownership these days, although some would say my taste has never been “mainstream”. I want something different so, avoid pretty much anything from a German / German owned brand.

  14. I love the comments about people not choosing cars that are mainstream or “because everyone has one”. What an utterly perverse attitude.

    I choose my cars on the basis of how they drive and make me feel, not by what they might say about me or how many other people have one. This is why you’ll find on my driveway currently a L322 Range Rover L322 (293,000 made) and a Marcos (34 made). Even worse, my wife’s just bought a 2009 Ford Focus ST-2. What will the neighbours think?!

    As an aside, why does the Vauxhall Insignia in the picture at the top of the article have a Ford badge on it….?

    • Not really peverse, I just seem to have a somewhat leftfield taste in motors. I’ve had my fair share of Vauxhalls, Fords, Toyotas and, before I became totally disillusioned with them, VWs as well. On the flip side, I’ve owned a Eunos Cosmo, 2 Protons and a Rover Sterling Coupe, all great in their different ways.

  15. Being boring does not seem to stop VW selling lots of cars and dynamically they are probably more dull than Fords. Speaking of boring, what about the id3. If one stopped outside my house I’d probably have to put the milk in it. What were they thinking. The Golf if properly spec’d could be a good car. So how did they employ hundred of designers and product planners and still come up with that dreary old heap. Back to Ford, I went off them as production moved abroad. The Fiesta has to be one of the most overrated cars of all time. Terrible build quality and actually nothing special on the road.

  16. Ford have returned to type. Back in the 80s rather basic cars against the opposition, were priced to sell and so got the market. The early 90s cock up of the Escort release (which eventually came good) made Ford think again, and the Mk1 Focus, and the Mk3 Mondeo became not only excellent driver cars, but were built brilliantly. I owned 2 Mk1 Focus (thanks to Ford staff discount), and both were brilliant. I had to get something bigger, and although the Mk2 was bigger it was not as fun to drive and not as well built. I nearly bought a mondeo until Ford offered a massive discount on a Volvo S60. My brother, who bought my second Focus off me, kept it for another 3 years before he changed it. He liked it so much he went on and bought a Mk3 Focus several years later – again no where as good, while my Uncle has had all Mks, with the Mk2 and Mk4 having serious issues which took a long while to get fixed. His Mk1 was bomb proof, and my cousin ran it for 10 years with no probs. My other Uncke runs a Mk1 still and he says it’s the best car he has ever had.

  17. I bought one of the last of the Mark 5 Ford Fiestas( 58 plate Style) as the trade in on my Nissan Almera was good and the car had a year’s extra warranty added by the dealer, who ran a Ford service centre next to their Nissan showroom. An unpretentious car that drove well and was quite spacious inside, but suddenly overheated in traffic just after the four year warranty ran out and it turned out the lower radiator hose had split, a common fault at 40 k miles. However, it was an easy and cheap fix and the car behaved itself for the next 18 months, although it did rattle a bit from the dashboard.
    My main gripe, and I can remember this from Fords of old, was the poor fuel consumption. The Almera, a 1.5 litre car with a bigger body, delivered a respectable 35-43 mpg depending on how it was driven, but the Fiesta was little better and had a smaller fuel tank. Even on a long journey, it would rarely do more than 45 mpg and around town would average 35 mpg. Poor considering the Nissan Micra that replaced it would do 45-60 mpg and had a similar sized engine.

  18. I can’t help but think that people just aren’t as bothered about what badge a car has anymore. As other people have said, there doesn’t feel like that much difference between cars these days. With the increase in popularity of leasing, people seem to be choosing premium brands like Audi, BMW or Mercedes where they can afford it because the better residual values of those cars mean they are about the same or cheaper than a Ford or Vauxhall.

  19. Hard to draw conclusions at the moment. The market is all over the place and Ford themselves say they have prioritised more profitable commercial vehicle production over cars whilst key components are in short supply. Also many mainstream brands are actively stepping away from the premium badge obsessed UK market where they can only sell by discounting at suicidal levels to focus on more lucrative markets. Doesnt necessarily mean FoE is a busted flush in the wider scheme of things.

    • Where did that Mondeo rendering come from? Thats a good looking car – Ford’s AR16 perhaps? A slam dunk hit that they decided not to build!

        • Yes I see that and its based on the same C2 platform as the current Focus. I know the market for large non premium saloons is much smaller these days but the current Mondeos woes cant all be put down to that. It was a US derived model that was never good and not fit to lick the tyres of the Richard Parry Jones original. Its now a 10 year old design so inevitably will have limited appeal. Skoda seem to do decent business with the Superb and Peugeot are staying in the market with the new 508 so with a decent product Ford could be missing a trick here. If it shares a lot with the Focus and will be sold in volume in China surely its worth a punt in Europe?

  20. Ford had ditched all its saloon cars in the USA/Canada market, shifting to CUV’s and SUV’s replacing them as their demand shrunk and destroyed it by their horrible DCT ‘automatic’ transmissions. In the NA market, Ford may use the Fusion name for a CUV. They are making most of their money on F-150 and larger ‘pick up’ trucks which are not sold in the EU. To me Ford has starved it’s development of UK/EU ICE market cars shifting money to EV’s in the NA market.

  21. As has been pointed out, Ford often had rotten customer service, particularly towards private buyers, where there was far less profit than a fleet manager buying ten Mondeos. Arnold Shark has a near monopoly locally on Fords, and many customers have been driven away by their dismal customer care and aggressive sales techniques. However, their predecessors, GK and County Garage, were no great shakes either and I can remember spending ages looking at used Focuses before a salesman finally appeared and muttered something about come back after lunch. No surprises, I went elsewhere and didn’t buy a Ford.

  22. …. And years ago they could get away with it because there model range was well sorted and offered a good package. The problem now is that the competition has caught them up, and in many cases overtaken them… just look at the quality of a Kia or Hyundai now. Interestingly i’m on holiday in Germany at the moment and have a Puma hire car; the interior of which is very similar looking and quality to my Transit custom… you want something plusher than a van interior in a car really !

    • @ Serialbuyer, Ford made conservatively engineered cars that looked good and someone buying a 1.3 Escort Ghia could imagine they were in a far more expensive car with all the wood and velour inside. Also the amount of special editions that made their more basic cars look good attracted large sales, and until the Mark 2 Cavalier arrived, Ford dominated the fleet market.

  23. I have had a more positive experience with my local Ford dealer (Lookers, ex Jennings). The salesman I know has been there 13 years and the staff are not scruffy – fortunately. A very efficient lady Service Adviser keeps me updated on the progress of work on my car and they send vehicle health check videos while on the ramp. Like everything in life costs do rise but I feel I have a good dealer/customer relationship, up to now.

  24. This article is very misleading. It’s been widely reported elsewhere that Ford were hit harder than their rivals (for whatever reason) by the semi-conductor shortage. That is the reason for the absence. Once that is resolved, then normal service will be resumed.

  25. Their vehicle plants have been almost completely shut down for a year, amazing they got anything in the top ten!
    Prior to all this, the Fiesta was easily outselling the PSA Corsa until they split the sales across the Puma/Fiesta on the same platform.

  26. Yes, do not write off Ford, they are one of the senior car makers and have weathered many a storm. Ford survived the Great Auto Crash of 2009 without entering the Chapter 11 arrangements of GM and Chrysler, prior to the crash, Ford were cash strapped to the position they could not afford even paperclips, office workers were bringing in supplies from home, the turnaround was by a CEO Ian Mullaly. Under Mullaly Ford, re-engineered from a financial basket case to a strong company that weathered the Auto Crash storm without big bailouts

  27. My tuppence worth: I am not a badge snob, so I run a 15yo Mondeo and a 19yo Polo. Service from both dealers is good, as opposed to the Jag dealers who looked down their nose at me when I ran an X type. I would like to see the above Mondeo on sale in UK, if it’s as good as mine it would be pokey, economical, , easy to drive and reliable. Anything built by foreign companies in China – our washing machine or a laptop – appears to be reliable and durable, it’s the Chinese own labels who are somewhat variable – we have returned duff Chinese products in the past.

    • The Mark 3 Mondeo was a very well made car that seems to have lasted. There is always on lurking on a street corner and I still a few early ones in use. I think this car was when Ford came really good again after the awful last two generations of Escorts and flops like the Probe and the Scorpio. Possibly owning Jaguar and Volvo helped improve the refinement and quality of their cars, as having driven and been driven in Mark 3 Mondeos they really were quiet, comfortable cars and had a quality feel to them, with the cheap plastics of old banished.

      • Mark 3 Mondeo is a cracking utility car. My 2001 petrol hatchback is covered in dings and scratches (on-street parking) but it’s happy on the motorway or in a muddy field, handles well and you can get two mountain bikes in the back with their wheels on. This year was the first time it needed any welding for the MOT.

        • @ Matt, they seem to go on forever like the early Focuses and are cheap as chips to buy now and very easy to maintain. I think this was the era when Ford got everything right and made cars that didn’t feel like they were built to a price and their bigger cars were far more refined and nicer to drive than their predecessors. My Fiesta certainly was a lot quieter than the buzzboxes from the eighties and until the dash started to rattle slightly after five years old seemed well screwed together( shame about the fuel consumption, but it was a non Zetec 1.25).

  28. The current Kuga is an absolutely hideous blob. That huge gloopy front overhang with front wheels set too far back, wheelbase that looks too short, windscreen angle too steep so that the windscreen is 2 inches from your forehead when driving it, bland styling etc etc. Are Ford employing the stylists who previously worked for Peugeot in the late 2000’s who uglyfied the entire Peugeot range with bloated fish-face styling (now thankfully not the case)?

  29. EU total car sales in 2020 were around 10 million, China’s total was 27 million.

    I think frankly companies like Ford are not that fussed about us. We’re a marginally profitable legacy business

  30. With reference to all the talk of badges, I think we are ignoring the elephant in the room. The reality is that badges mean absolutely everything to an awful lot of people. I will never own a BMW or an Audi because of their image. I detest ‘one-upmanship’ in any form and this whole thing about owning a ‘premium brand German car’ makes me quite nauseous. I was told recently that people buy Audis’ because they can stick two fingers up at speed restrictions – especially the 20 limit through a village. I was also told that people buy BMW’s because then they can pull out and try and pass you knowing they will have to ‘cut you up’ because they’re carriageway is blocked – and they don’t ever have to give way to you. All utter nonsense of course. The reality is that both those makes are so popular it just ‘seems’ that their drivers are the rudest and most inconsiderate. I think.
    Of course in my day, we all drove very respectfully and us ‘Wolseley chaps’ were the epitome of decency and gentlemanly behaviour – mind you, some of those Riley chaps were a bit aggressive!!!!

    • Counter point – I don’t give a monkeys about the badge actually I wish my 3 series was badged Dacia or Tesco or except it’s a condition of servicing so I’m stuck with it. What I care about is last year rock solid on the autobahn at 210-220 KMH.

  31. I can remember when BMWs were a rarity, a sporting alternative to Mercedes aimed at well off buyers and not at all mainstream. Meanwhile only the seriously well off drove Mercedes and usually the entry level 200 and 230 models as the six cylinder cars were out of all but the wealthiest motorists price range. Typically your executive car driver drove around in a Ford Granada or top of the range Cortina if they had a company car, and private buyers opted for smaller engined Rovers, Volvo 240s and Audi 80s. It wasn’t until the mid eighties that BMW sales really soared and Mercedes saw their sales increase when they introduced the more affordable 190 model.

    • I go along with Glenn’s observations. A friend’s parents had one of the first BMW’s I saw in 1970… can’t remember which model but think it was a 5 series forerunner. In the mid 70’s I was a passenger in a Farm owners BMW 5 series and realised then what an upmarket car it was compared to Granada’s etc. After owning two Audi 80’s my Dad bought three BMW 3′ series (but he still adored his 1960s VX4/90! )

      • @ Hilton D, I can remember being a passenger in a Mercedes 280, when these were rare, probably even rarer on Tyneside, that a family friend whose father was a retired army colonel had bought as a retirement present. Back then, Mercedes were seen as the pinnacle of German engineering, producing expensive but beautifully made and very durable cars that would outlast most of their rivals. I do remember the car being extremely quiet and the seats being very comfortable and made from a very high quality cloth. Rather different to the old Cortina we had as a family car then.

        • I do miss those old school Mercs, which were classy and subtle, even the “sporty” models like the SL, and lasted forever

          I do wonder if long term they’ve damaged the brand, flooding the world with AMG spec A classes etc

          • @ maestrowoff. I think you’re right. Owning a Merc, BMW and Audi, especially Merc, were always a sign that life was treating you very well. Now, they are on the drive of every house in every housing estate, they are just what people lease, because it’s cheaper than a Ford and they think it impresses the curtain-twitching neighbours. There’s nothing aspirational about them whatsoever.

  32. I’m still surprised when looking at the monthly figures for car sales in the UK to see that Mercedes are usually fairly high in that list; often in a higher position that some Ford models.

    • Fifty % of the British car market sales are just 4 Goliaths, Ford, BMW, Mercedes, VW group (Audi,VW,Skoda,Seat/Cupra), that leaves around 40 to 50 Davids for the other 50%, with companies such as Kia/Hyundai making strong progress in the USA and the UK , you can see why German car makers are so pro-Eu and none too keen on Brexit

      • Except for the detail that every RHD 3 series is made in South Africa and every X* Bimmer is assembled in Spartanburg North Carolina

  33. Nearly all cars are bought on pcp now, and low deprecated brands offer the best pcp rates. That favours the Germans. Hence there strength in market place.

  34. I can concur with that. A friends mother drove a Mercedes 280 estate in late seventies. They were regarded as very well to do. My own parents had a Princess at the time, so going in that merc was quite something for an average ten year old.

  35. The Dad of one of my school friends in the 1980s had his own company so the family had some fancier than normal cars.

    His Dad had a Reliant Scimitar which was later replaced by a Jaguar XJS, while his Mum drove a Volvo 240 estate followed by two Mercedes estates.

  36. Ford may be slipping back in the UK for passenger vehicles, I cannot see any falling back in van sales, for vans I estimate 75% of the market is from the Transit family , my employer has large fleet of Transit Connects, they are very reliable and “white van driver proof”, the safe and steady drivers achieve 55mpg or more on long runs, the vans are heavily constructed, 2300 kgs empty weight,

  37. Ford might also be losing sales to Hyundai and Kia, whose cars are similarly priced and as cheap to own and more reliable if car ownership surveys are to be believed. Hyundai and Kia offer much longer warranties, even the basic cars are very well equipped and the customer care is superior to Ford, with many dealers still being family owned. Some buyers who can’t afford the ownership costs of premium brands and prefer less pretentious brands are flocking to the Koreans. No longer is a Kia a tinny, outdated car sold on price, but a highly competent car as good as anything made in Europe or Japan.

  38. My brother’s previous Chevvy Lacetti 1.8 Estate car was a reliable workhorse too… did 180K miles with business usage and apparently is still on the road. KIA & Hyundai are 2 makes I would consider nowadays.

  39. Ford’s problem to me was they were always overdependent on the fleet market, with most of their sales for their bigger cars coming from fleet sales. I think the turning point came in the late eighties when the Sierra, which never enjoyed the same sort of affection as the Cortina, found itself seriously challenged in the fleet market by superior cars from Nissan, Peugeot, Citroen, Vauxhall and Rover, the turbodiesel Montego proving popular for its economy. Also the Ford reclaimed steel scandal and problems with a new range of engines in the Sierra began to hurt sales and in the nineties company car buyers began to be offered Audis and BMWs.

  40. The fleet market is as important than the private market,if not more so fleets buy in large volumes ,keeps the assembly lines rolling, fleets are renewed on a regular and predictable basis, fleets cover high mileages needing regular and frequent servicing, all work for the dealer network, there may be a lot of price haggling by the fleet buyer, but Ford knew how to cost a car for manufacture and the specifications to attract the company car driver, from basic L Escort specification for the utility company car driver all the way through to the Cortina or Granada Ghia specification for management. It was a cosy situation for Ford, then along came the Astra and Cavalier in 1981, overnight Ford had some very serious competition

  41. @ cyclist, the fleet market probably kept Ford’s factories in Britain going as it generated hundreds of thousands of sales and guaranteed profits for years on end, even if the cars weren’t the last word in engineering excellence or reliability. Dealers loved the fact a major local company would place an order for twenty new Cortinas every two to three years, then trade them in, which meant more profit in used sales as the Cortina was the country’s best selling car. It was a win win situation for Ford, especially as British Leyland had lost most of the fleet market as the Marina became too old fashioned and the Maxi was considered too complicated.
    Yet come the eighties and Ford began to face a serous challenge from Vauxhall, who had a considerable sized dealer network and had gradually built up a fleet presence with the original Cavalier. Even more so, the Mark 2 Cavalier was aimed at fleet buyers and its 1,6 engine offered the performance of a 2 litre car with the economy of a 1.3, while the Astra was a far superior car to the Mark 3 Escort, having a much better ride, smoother engines and better economy. These two cars buried any lingering doubts about Vauxhall being inferior to Ford as the Astra in particular was Golf like in its build quality( many early ones were made in Germany).

    • @Glenn Aylett; The relatively modern PCP system for the private car buyer is in certain aspects mimicking the fleet system you describe, as a private buyer using a PCP facility, you are in essence renting a car for a fixed period of say three years, at the expiry of the fixed period , there is a mandatory decision comprised of a limited number of options: hand-back the car, pay off the PCP, or visit the dealer to start a new PCP, effectively there is a predictable sales and revenue and servicing 3-year business cycle for the dealer and the manufacturer, plus the hand-back cars in prime condition are stock for the forecourt. Of course there is a risk, depreciation or miscalculation of the price of the car at the 3-year point could leave the dealer or manufacturer with a large toxic asset. cars from owners who cannot keep up the payments or a slump in used car prices.

  42. @ cyclist, this is how I buy cars now. It means I can buy something new for £ 225 a month with no worries about repair costs, breakdown cover and servicing. It’s a decent enough system as it means people who couldn’t normally afford new cars like me can buy something new. Also due to a shortage of used cars caused by the pandemic I managed to get a good trade in on the last car However, there are some people who think they can afford to get a car like a BMW on PCP, only to fall behind on the payments and find the running costs too high.

  43. There’s always annual mileage restrictions on PCP cars too, with excess mileage to pay for. A colleague once saw an advert for a Golf on PCP restricted to 6,000 miles a year. He commented that you would spend a lot of time watching it stand on the driveway…

    • In 2021 all of Europe was around half a million sales for Ford, out of 4 million globally and the trend is down.
      They have 4% european market share vs over 20% for each of VW and Stellantis.
      I’m wondering if they may be quietly existing the market.

  44. The Fiesta wears the sales crown for the Ford UK, Ford have abandoned the sub-Fiesta segment (Ford Ka), the Hyundai i20 seems to have been designed to take on the Fiesta head to head, and Hyundai are offering some aggressive price deals on the i20. Autocar claimed the i20 as the better car, SD67: how would Ford react to the Fiesta slipping down the sales tables in the UK or Europe?

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