1911 Ford Model T Open Runabout (top); 2011 Ford Fiesta. Click image to enlarge
Manufacturer’s web site
Article and photos by Jil McIntosh
100 years of Ford’s global cars
Oakville, Ontario – A global car that’s sold around the world, produced locally for each market, affordably priced and popular: it’s the goal of almost every automaker today. And yet, it’s an ideal that’s been around for over a hundred years, as Ford of Canada recently demonstrated.
At an informal event at its Canadian headquarters in Oakville, Ontario, Ford brought journalists together to experience global cars a century apart: the Model T and the upcoming Ford Fiesta.
Three Model Ts were on hand, brought in by their owners who showed the writers how to drive them, while Ford showed a new Fiesta, purchased from a dealer in Holland that will be similar to the model we’ll get in mid-2010. The company is currently moving its waning SUV and truck production around to open up facilities to build the new small global platform, and our Fiestas will come from Mexico.
The Model T wasn’t Ford’s first car, but it fulfilled Henry Ford’s goal of a vehicle that was within range of most buyers’ budgets, and easy to drive and maintain. At a time when most cars were big, heavy and expensive, the spidery and lightweight T could scuttle over the poor or even non-existent roads of the day. At one point, its price tag dropped from $825 to as low as $260. Ford put all its eggs in one basket: it discontinued all of its other models in favour of the Model T, whose name held no more significance other than it followed the Model S, letter designations being very common at the time. From 1909, its first full year of production, until it was discontinued in 1927, the Model T, in various body configurations, was the only model Ford made. In 1921, 57 per cent of all vehicles in the world were Model Ts, and Antarctica was the only continent that didn’t have a facility building them.
Ford certainly isn’t expecting the Fiesta to do quite the same thing, but it’s counting on the new model to make a dent in the various markets where it will be sold. The company will also turn the Focus into a global platform, with conventional and battery-electric models coming out of Michigan, and a small car derived from the Focus platform to be built in its plant in Louisville, Kentucky.