Ford of Europe

Ford of Europe AG
Industry Automotive
Founded 1967 Ireland
Headquarters Cologne, Germany
Number of locations
10 manufacturing facilities in seven countries
Area served
Key people
Jim Farley
(Chairman and chief executive officer)
Products Automobiles
Number of employees
69,400 (2009)
Parent Ford Motor Company
Divisions Ford Team RS

Ford of Europe AG[1] is a subsidiary company of Ford Motor Company founded in 1967 with headquarters in Cologne, Germany.


Ford of Europe was founded in 1967 on the merger of the British and German divisions of the Ford Motor Company. The front-engined 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 avoided marketing their vehicles in one another's domestic markets, and in much of the rest of western Europe were direct competitors, with totally separate product lines, despite being owned by the same American parent, in a similar manner to General MotorsOpel and Vauxhall subsidiaries at the same time - indeed GM followed Ford's precedent in the 1970s by merging the operations of Opel and Vauxhall into General Motors Europe.

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 coupé in 1969. Loosely based on Ford UK's rear-wheel drive Mk II Cortina 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 Ford Cortina Mk III and its German cousin, the Taunus (replacing the Taunus 12M & 15M). The British and German models were based on the same platform, but had different sheet metal and used engines from their home countries, though both models could be had with the new German-built 2000cc OHC petrol engine. By 1972 the Cortina was the best-selling car in Britain.[2]

In the spring of 1972, Ford Europe replaced their top of the range models from Britain (Zephyr/Zodiac) and Germany (17M/20M/26M) with the Consul and Granada (large sedan, estate and coupé) which was aimed directly at the Opel Rekord, 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 models, 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 Ford Escort (Europe) at the start of 1975, with a heavily restyled exterior and a less cramped interior, but an almost identical mechanical design. The entry-level 950 cc engine, which was rare in any country, was discontinued.

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

1976 saw Ford Europe enter the mini-car market with its first ever-front model to have a hatchback and front-wheel drive. The Fiesta MK1 was built at the company's new 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[2] and fight off competition from a growing number of equally competent rivals, namely the Vauxhall Cavalier/Opel Ascona and Chrysler Alpine.

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

The Mk III Capri sporting coupé 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: Breaking new ground

The 1980s saw a radical change in most of the European Fords, which had begun in 1980 when the Escort switched to front-wheel drive and a hatchback from the traditional rear-wheel drive saloon.

20 years of Cortina production came to an end in October 1982 with the launch of the new Ford 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 in place of its predecessor's conventional, square styling was the Sierra's ultramodern aerodynamic styling that was way ahead of its time compared to the competition. 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 Great Britain and Belgium, and sold well just about everywhere it went. Cosworth versions of the Sierra were built from 1986, all of which were capable of 150 mph (240 km/h). The three-door Sierra hatchback, mostly sold with only a 1.3 petrol engine, was not a popular choice, and had been discontinued by the time the Sierra was facelifted in early 1987, when a Sapphire saloon version was launched and the 1.3 engine dropped. The original Sierra Cosworth was the last model in the range to feature a three-door hatchback.

1983 saw the seven-year-old Ford Fiesta receive a majorly facelift MK2 version 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 introduced a new four-door saloon to meet the demands of buyers looking for a booted alternative to the Escort and Sierra hatchbacks and estates. 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 initially 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 the Granada-replacing Ford Scorpio – although the Granada name was retained in the United Kingdom and Ireland – "Scorpio" being used as a sub-brand for the highest specification models. 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, being similar in appearance to the smaller Sierra. 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 Scorpio was a success all over Europe, and was voted European Car of the Year for 1986. A saloon version had joined the range by 1990, as had a 2.9 V6 Cosworth high performance hatchback.

An updated Escort and Orion appeared in February 1986 – often erroneously called the "Mark 4", it featured Scorpio-influenced front end styling, revised engine options and an all-new interior.

Production of the sporty Capri coupé ended in December 1986 after 17 years and there was no replacement, as sporting coupés 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. Ford had proved successful in this sector with faster versions of the Fiesta, Escort and Sierra.

The third generation Fiesta was launched in March 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 long-running 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 - the first Fiestas to feature fuel injection. 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 Renault 19.

1990–1997: Driven by you

The fifth generation Escort was launched in September 1990, along with the Orion saloon, but the motoring public and press gave it mixed views. The car's styling lacked the flair of some rivals, and its driving experience was hardly the last word in excitement. The standard Escort models were later joined by the RS2000 and RS Cosworth performance versions that attracted a much more positive reaction. The RS2000 nameplate had been abandoned back in 1980 and the new version was undoubtedly the best, with its 2.0 16-valve I4 engine and the option of four-wheel drive, as well as its impressive top speed of more than 130 mph (210 km/h). The RS Cosworth was a turbocharged version of the RS2000 and had a top speed of 150 mph (240 km/h) which helped bolster its fortunes in international rallies.

In spite of this, and impressive new models being launched by rival companies Vauxhall and Rover, Ford were still firmly positioned at the top of the British car sales charts in the early 1990s and sold well in virtually all European countries, expanding into Eastern Europe at the beginning of the 1990s following the collapse of communism. They even enlisted the help of Brian May to record a new song – Driven by you – which featured in their new TV advertising campaign for the whole Ford range in the UK.

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

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

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

Ford re-entered the coupé market in early 1994 with its American-built, Mazda-based Probe. Available with 2.0 16-valve and 2.5 V6 petrol engines, the Probe was fun to drive but failed to sell as well as Ford might have hoped, and was withdrawn in 1997.

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

Ford entered the city car market in 1996 with its oddly-named and oddly-styled Ka, and was beaten into second place in the 1997 European Car of the Year award by the Renault Scenic. It made use of the Fiesta's chassis and 1300 cc petrol engine, which gave it strong handling for such a small car. Going against the appeal were its cramped rear seats and tiny boot, but it managed to sell well for most of its 12-year production run. Around the same time, the Mondeo gained a facelift which saw the exterior styling brought up to date and the seating re-designed to improve space for rear seat passengers.

The Fiesta chassis also spawned the stylish Puma coupé in 1997, which included the Fiesta's 1.4 engine as well as its own 1.7 unit. The Puma won plaudits for its distinctive looks and brilliant driving experience, with the cramped rear seats being the only real let-down. Despite its popularity, it was not replaced on its demise in 2002.

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

1998–2003: New Edge design

In the late 1990s, Ford adopted a distinctive "New Edge" design on its model range. Some of the cars adopting this eye-catching new look were entirely new, while others were facelifted versions of earlier and more conservative designs.

Main article: New Edge

The end was in sight for the Escort in 1998 when its distinctively-styled successor, the Focus, went on sale. Its radical design meant that Ford kept the Escort on sale alongside it for two years, giving buyers a more conventionally-styled alternative, perhaps in fear of a repeat of the controversy it had faced some 15 years earlier when the Sierra was first on sale. But Ford need not have worried about the public's reaction to the new Focus, which was European Car of the Year for 1999 and one of the best selling cars in the continent. At the height of its production there was a new Ford Focus coming off a production line at an average of one every 12 seconds (Saarlouis, Germany; Valencia, Spain; Wayne, Michigan USA; Hermosillo, Mexico). However, the Focus was never built in Britain.

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

The aging Fiesta received its second facelift in the autumn of 1999, and continued to attract huge sales thanks to its excellent ride and handling that disguised its age well. The interior was, by now, one of the smartest in the supermini sector, though interior space – particularly in the back – was far from the best. This shortcoming was solved at the start of 2002 when the all-new Fiesta went on sale. This new Fiesta was to be built at Ford Cologne and Ford Valencia, each plant producing one Fiesta every 27 seconds. This also marked the end of Ford passenger car production in the UK after some 90 years, though commercial vehicles continued to be produced at Dagenham alongside the engine assembly for the passenger vehicles. In addition, Ford's Halewood plant was converted for Jaguar X-Type assembly in 2001. Ford also continued to build vans at its Southampton plant until relocating production to Turkey in 2013.

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

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

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

2004–2011: Kinetic Design

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

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

Main article: Kinetic Design

Ford launched a third generation Mondeo in 2007, and new versions of the Fiesta and Ka in 2008.

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

In 2008, Ford acquired a majority stake in Automobile Craiova, Romania. The Ford Transit Connect was Ford's first model produced in Craiova, followed in 2012 by the new small class B-Max and the small displacement engine 1.0-litre EcoBoost.[3]

2011-present: One Ford

The first major car launch by Ford under the new "One Ford" policy for the 2010s was the third generation Focus in the spring of 2011. For Europe, the Focus featured a lesser model range than its predecessors, with only a five-door hatchback and five-door estate being sold; there were no saloon or three-door hatchback versions. The larger Mondeo had been facelifted the previous autumn, but this did little to halt dwindling sales over the next three years.

In 2013, Ford announced that it would close three of its factories in Europe: two of them in the UK, the Southampton facility (manufacturing the Ford Transit van) and the associated stamping facility in Dagenham in mid-2013;[4] and the Genk, Belgium major car plant (producing the Mondeo and the Galaxy and S-Max minivans) by the end of 2014.[5] This amounted for 1,400 and 4,300 job cuts respectively, in an attempt by the company to stem losses in Europe on the background of a declining market.[6]


The Commercial vehicles arm of Ford of Britain, was part of the operation until it was sold to Fiat's Iveco division in 1986. Its last significant models under Ford ownership were the Transcontinental and the Cargo. Ford has planned to build the European version F-Series pick-up trucks in Germany for the European market.


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


Plant Image City Country Total Employees Current/Last Products Year Opened Year Closed Notes
Aachen Research Center Aachen Germany Germany
Bordeaux Transmission Plant Blanquefort France France IB5 Transmissions: Fiesta, Fusion, B-MAX, Focus, C-MAX, Mondeo 50/50 joint-venture between Ford and Getrag.
Bridgend Engine Bridgend United Kingdom United Kingdom 2,137[7] The 1,6 I4 EcoBoost and the SI6 (for Volvo, Land Rover) petrol engine 1980 Present
Cologne Body & Assembly Cologne Germany Germany 4,375 Fiesta, the 1.0 L I3 EcoBoost 1931 Present
Craiova Assembly Craiova Romania Romania 3,600[8] B-Max, the 1.0 L I3 EcoBoost 2008[nb 1] Present
Dagenham Engine Dagenham United Kingdom United Kingdom 1,835[9] All Ford Europe diesel engines 1931 Present
Dunton Technical Centre United Kingdom United Kingdom 5,000 1967 Present
Halewood Transmission Halewood, Merseyside United Kingdom United Kingdom 715[10] Transmissions 1963 Present Originally a body and assembly plant, which has now transferred to Jaguar Land Rover, FoE retained ownership of the transmission works, which it owns in collaboration with Getrag
Otosan Assembly Kocaeli Turkey Turkey 7,534 Transit, Transit Custom, Transit Connect 2001[nb 2] Present A joint-venture plant, since closure of Southampton now produces all Transit variants in Europe
Lommel Proving Grounds Belgium Belgium Proving grounds 1964 Present
Saarlouis Body & Assembly Saarlouis Germany Germany 6,199[11] Focus, C-Max 1970 Present
Valencia Body & Assembly Almussafes Spain Spain 3,485[12] Kuga, Galaxy, Mondeo, S-Max, Transit 1976 Present
Vsevolozhsk Assembly Vsevolozhsk Russia Russia 2,961[13] Focus, Mondeo 2002 Present

Former facilities

Plant Image City Country Total Employees Current/Last Products Year Opened Year Closed Notes
Berlin Assembly Berlin Germany Germany Model T 1928 1931 Replaced by Cologne
Genk Body & Assembly Genk Belgium Belgium 4,300[14] Galaxy, Mondeo, S-Max 1964 2014 Replaced by Valencia
Southampton Body & Assembly Swaythling, Southampton United Kingdom United Kingdom 538 Transit 1953 2013 Originally built as aircraft factory (Cunliffe Owen aircraft ltd) just before World War II. Production moved to Turkey.
Trafford Park Trafford Park, Manchester United Kingdom United Kingdom 1911 1931 Production transferred to Dagenham.
Ford Union Abchak Belarus Belarus 130 (1997) Escort, Transit 1997 2000


Main article: List of Ford vehicles

Current model range

The following tables list Ford production vehicles that are sold in Europe as of 2013:

Passenger cars

Ka City car
  • Hatchback
Fiesta Supermini
  • Hatchback
Ecosport Mini crossover SUV
  • SUV
B-Max Mini MPV
  • MPV
Focus Small family car
  • Hatchback
  • Saloon/Sedan
  • Estate/Wagon
C-Max Compact MPV
  • MPV
Kuga Compact crossover SUV
  • SUV
Mondeo Large family car
  • Saloon/Sedan
  • Liftback
  • Estate/Wagon
S-Max Large MPV
  • MPV
Galaxy Large MPV
  • MPV

ST models

Main article: Ford Team RS

Ford produce high-performance derivatives of their cars developed by their Ford Team RS division.

Ford Focus ST Compact car
  • Hatchback
  • Estate/Wagon
Ford Fiesta ST Supermini
  • Hatchback

Light commercial vehicles

Transit Courier
Tourneo Courier
Small panel van
Transit Connect
Tourneo Connect
Compact panel van
  • 5-door panel van
  • 5-door leisure activity vehicle
Transit Custom
Tourneo Custom
Light commercial vehicle
  • 5-door van
  • 5-door crew cab van
  • 5-door minibus
Light commercial vehicle
Ranger Pick-up truck
  • 2-door single cab
  • 2-door open cab
  • 4-door double cab/crew cab

European Car of the Year

Ford have produced five winners of the European Car of the Year competition:

Shortlisted models

Several models have been shortlisted, including the:

See also


  1. Year taken over by Ford of Europe. Originally opened in 1976.
  2. Year the plant was established. Joint venture established in 1977.


  1. Deutschland. "Ford of Europe GmbH; Köln: Adresse + Firmenportrait". DE: Retrieved 24 March 2012.
  2. 1 2 3 The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders Limited (May 2005). "Motor Industry Facts – 2005" (PDF). Retrieved 3 September 2009.
  3. "Ford begins Transit Connect production at its new plant in Craiova, Romania". 8 September 2009. Retrieved 12 September 2009.
  7. United Kingdom:Bridgend Engine Plant Retrieved April 6, 2015.
  8. Romania:Craiova Assembly Retrieved April 6, 2015.
  9. United Kingdom:Dagenham Engine Plant Retrieved April 6, 2015.
  10. United Kingdom:Halewood Transmission Plant Retrieved April 6, 2015.
  11. Germany:Saarlouis Body and Assembly Plant Retrieved April 6, 2015.
  12. Spain:Valencia Body and Assembly Retrieved April 6, 2015.
  13. Russia:Ford Sollers St. Petersburg Assembly Plant Retrieved April 6, 2015.
  14. Belgium:Genk Body and Assembly Retrieved April 6, 2015.
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