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End of the road for Ford Fiesta: UK’s best-selling car of all time ends production | Ford

“L I don’t know what I would go for if I hadn’t had the Fiesta,” said Karen Fox, an Edinburgh civil servant. She will pick up her fourth version of the model on Saturday, but it will probably be her last: Ford on Wednesday it confirmed it will end production of the UK’s best-selling car of all time in June next year.

The end of the model becomes just the latest symbol of the shift from combustion engines to batteries: the factory in Cologne, Germanywhere the last Fiestas are made, will switch to the production of two new electric models.

In the 47 years since the first Fiestas rolled off the production line at Ford’s plant in Valencia, Spain, more than 22 million have been sold worldwide. Of that, 4.8 million was in the UK, where the Fiesta was the best-selling model for 12 years in a row from 2009 to 2020.

A Ford Fiesta car on the assembly line at the Ford plant in Cologne, Germany.
A Ford Fiesta car on the assembly line at the Ford plant in Cologne, Germany.
Photo: Friedrich Stark/Alamy

The American automaker first launched the Fiesta in 1976, when engineering teams rushed to release smaller, more efficient cars in response to a previous energy crisis. Production started a year later in the United Kingdom, in Dagenham. It was here that the actor Idris Elba spent two years working nights before he found stardom. The factory now only makes diesel engines, after the last Fiesta was produced in 2002.

The Fiesta (“party”, in Spanish) was never glamorous, but was hugely popular for seven iterations. The Internet Movie Car Database contains over 4,000 appearances in movies. Still, Fiesta almost always played in the background rather than the lead, though it did have brushes with fame. Bridget Jones actor Renée Zellwegger was said to drive a Fiestaas Roger Moore posed for a photo with an early model during the filming of the 1977 James Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me — though a keen-eyed car enthusiast spot it behind the Lotus Espirit which fueled the film’s main automotive interest.

Still, the car could still make the heart beat faster. Stephen Millings, a retired Belfast retail manager, bought a Mk1 Fiesta XR2 a few years after the car was launched in 1982.

“I was a boy racer,” he said. “The car ran like a proverbial roller skate, the road holding was superb and you could navigate roundabouts well above the current speed limits with ease.”

Alex Buttle, co-founder of the used car website Motorway.co.uk, said the Fiesta represents a “consistently significant proportion” of the cars customers sell on its platform, and prices have held up relatively well.

“The Fiesta may be sold by Ford, but it’s alive and kicking in the used car market,” Buttle said. “It’s been a staple super mini for years” and is a “modern classic,” he added.

A 1986 Ford Fiesta Finesse in London.
A 1986 Ford Fiesta Finesse in London. Photo: Goddard Archive/Alamy

For the most part, car brands have chosen to launch electric vehicles under new nameplates rather than updating existing models. Ford is in the process of a clean-up: It also announced on Wednesday the end of production in Valencia of the S-MAX and Galaxy multi-purpose vehicles — what Americans call minivans — in April 2023. The Mondeo, the symbol of ambitious voters during Tony Blair’s premiership, was abolished last year. The larger Focus may soon face the axe, too.

Ford is instead investing $2 billion in Cologne to create electric cars on a blueprint shared by Volkswagen. Ford plans to have the plant make 1.2 million electric vehicles in six years.

For now, however, Ford’s latest UK bestseller is still running on petrol. Ford has sold 85,000 of its Puma model since its launch in 2020. Available as a small battery hybrid, the Puma has adopted bulkier crossover SUV styling that has become the dominant form in the auto industry, much to the chagrin of environmentalists because of their higher CO2 emissions. Not everyone is happy with the switch.

“I was thinking about upgrading to the Puma, but I just don’t need such a big car,” said Fox. “It just makes me a little sad. I like it very much.”