Death to the Mondeo

It’s now only a matter of time before Ford’s largest European car offering loses its uneven struggle against customer apathy. 

(c) caradvice

It’s all change at the blue oval, as our dear, departed Archie Vicar might have put it. The Ford Motor Company, it seems, has been rather busy of late, not simply rearranging the deckchairs by putting an end to car production in the United States, or announcing the breathlessly anticipated body-on-frame Bronco offroader, but shuffling the deck on the bridge to boot. Iceberg? What iceberg?

The dance of the two Jim’s has kept blue-oval watchers amused for months now; the word at ground level being that (former CEO) Jim (Hackett) hasn’t really lived up to expectations, but that (new CEO) Jim (Farley) is either (a) absolutely and without doubt the chap to steady the ship, or (b) the diametric opposite of the above. It really depends on who you read.

Ford recently announced that production of its Fusion sedan officially ceased on July 31st at its Hermosillo plant in Mexico. Introduced in its most recent iteration in 2013, the Fusion was the last Ford saloon car standing in America, following the 2019 axing of the Taurus. At Ford’s upmarket Lincoln division, a similar story has played out, with the Fusion-based MK-Z already pushing up daisies, while the (also CD4-based) Continental is either awaiting its fate or has already gone gently into that good night.

Of course, assuming that one’s definition of the word is sufficiently broad, Ford still makes cars – they just don’t resemble the ones we used to associate with the land of the free. More fool us. We really need to keep up – the roseate image of the suburban American driveway, with dad’s sedan and mom’s woody station wagon becoming as hopelessly, naively dated as episodes of TV’s The West Wing. Trucks and utilities have been the (literal) drivers of the US vehicle market for what must be decades now and Ford are doing their level best to catch up with a market which has moved on without them.

Fortunately for the blue oval, the money-printing machine that is the F-150 truck continues unabated, and in addition, Ford offers refreshed Escape and Explorer CUVs, with the prospect of not only the Mach- E electric crossover, but the newly announced Bronco offroader and Bronco Sport CUV. Also available is the compact EcoSport, although nobody really wants to talk about that one. Lincoln too are transitioning to an all SUV range. Now, one can argue the rights and wrongs of such a move (and the debate continues to rage), but it does seem a little poignant for those of us of a more romantic bent, even if romance per se has been notable by its absence for some considerable time now.

Meanwhile on this side of the Atlantic, Ford’s troubles have also been coming in battalions. Serially incapable of stemming the flow of red ink from their European operations, the blue oval has lacked the cashflow to develop the sort of vehicles European customers have increasingly been gravitating toward – meaning that rivals, (notably the VW group) are taking advantage.

2020 has been a wasteland across the global auto business, with sales decimated owing to enforced shutdowns, restrictions and suppressed demand relating to the C-19 outbreak. Some automakers have been harder hit than others, and certainly those who had been struggling beforehand are facing even sterner impediments to continued viability now.

Against this backdrop, the future for the D-segment Mondeo appears bleak. The big Ford hatchback limped onto the European market in 2014, and since then has sold modestly (if consistently), but in dwindling numbers with each passing year. Achieving European market sales of close to 80,000 in 2015, demand shrank to half that number by close of play last year. For the current year to June, Mondeo sales have dropped again by exactly 50% (against the same period last year), hardly a shock under the circumstances.

Numbers only tell part of the story of course, but what can be gleaned by even a cursory glance on the roads is that the Mondeo has become a commodity car, beloved only of rental companies and fleet operators, as indeed the US Fusion is said to have become as Ford allowed it to wither on the vine. It therefore seems likely that a similar pathway will play out here, before the scythe inevitably falls.

And fall it undoubtedly will. According to the Ford Authority website, development is progressing on an estate-biased crossover to replace the Fusion/ Mondeo, which is to be sold on both sides of the Atlantic. Development mules are already making the rounds, currently employing a cut and shut Focus Estate bodyshell, suggesting that development is primarily taking place in Merkenich, rather than Michigan. Also likely is an even further reliance upon US imports, as the blue oval attempts to retain a semblance of its European market share, not to mention, market relevance.

The Fiesta remains a strong seller, the Focus a respected Golf rival. Both cars are well-regarded and broadly up to date. But profitable model lines? Good question. The latest Kuga and Puma crossovers are probably where the Euro centre of gravity now lies, but market traction has so far been hard to come by, and the sands of time are thinning. Meanwhile the European market looks likely to be in even further flux over the coming years.

Will Ford depart the European market entirely? That, to coin a phrase, would be an ecumenical matter. Will they remain in vastly diminished form? Much will hinge upon what happens in Detroit, but the smart money might be on Ford’s growing alliance with VW forming the basis of its European ambitions post-2025. Perhaps it’s time to buy a Mondeo – for posterity purposes, you understand.

Author: Eóin Doyle

Founder. Editor. Content Provider.

31 thoughts on “Death to the Mondeo”

  1. Good morning Eóin. Looking at photos of the Mustang Mach-E and speculative images of the Mondeo/Fusion replacement, I’m beginning to wonder if we haven’t already passed ‘peak SUV’ and the pendulum is beginning to swing back. Recent so-called crossovers are really little more than taller estate cars, most come with FWD as standard and some don’t even offer a 4WD option. I might be tempted to place a small bet that future models will become sleeker and more ‘car’ like again.

    Here’s the Mustang Mach-E:

    And Autocar’s speculative rendering of the Mondeo/Fusion replacement:

    Obviously, companies like Land Rover and Jeep that are primarily associated with SUVs will continue to make such vehicles, but mainstream manufacturers now seem to be moving in a different direction, as evidenced by the growth of the ridiculously named SUV-coupé variants.

  2. Good morning gentlemen. Some lovely phrases here, starting with “uneven struggle against customer apathy” – although that sums up the the entire market at the moment. I do so hope you are right, Daniel, in thinking that we’re past ‘peak SUV’ but the appalling coupé variants do not exactly inspire any positive expectation.

    Time for a latter-day Issigonis to come up with something to excite the gullible ? Sorry – feeling a bit liverish this morning.

    1. Morning, everyone. I think Daniel may be right, based on the evidence of Volkswagen’s forthcoming ID4. They have positioned it as a sleeker SUV (i.e. more of a clumpy-looking estate), as tall SUV shapes aren’t efficient enough. I wonder if the public will see it as an SUV.

    2. Hi Charles. Thanks for sharing that video. I have no need for an SUV but could easily see myself driving an ID.4 in future.

  3. Partly it’s Ford’s fault though – the Mondeo is absolutely huge and unwieldy for use in most of the UK. The 508 and Insignia look far more usable when you see them out and about, and there are more around here (Devon) than there are Mondeos. So perhaps it isn’t appealing even within its market segment.

    1. Hi Adrian. I think the Mondeo’s excessive size is a product of it being designed primarily for the US market. Over there, the Fusion looks very similar in size to its competitors (such as the Toyota Camry) whereas here, the Mondeo looks enormous!

    2. Actually the Insignia is longer and wider than the Mondeo, it’s the 50mm extra height that makes the Mondeo seem so big, along with what appears to be a high bonnet line.
      I remember seeing one of the unmourned Infinitis (Q70?) and thinking it looked like a normal car, but scaled up by 20%, again possibly accentuated by the height.

    3. Hi Adrian Tebby, they may look “absolutely huge and unwieldy” to you but get behind the wheel of one and they are deliciously delicate. I’m on my fifth estate now (2016 4×4) and it takes sand, cement and tools like a small Transit, my partner’s string quartet, their concert gear and instruments in sophisticated style (did you know a cello can sit in the luggage compartment sideways?) and we can do 500 miles in a day still feeling fresh. “Isn’t appealing,” Adrian? For the money, I’d be very interested to hear what’s better!

    4. Andy and Stephen – I quite believe that an Insignia is bigger, but what I was meaning is that the perceived size of the Mondeo might put people off even considering one. Likewise I happily believe how useful it is if you need a full sized estate car, and how good it is to use. I’m not trying to suggest there is better, just hypothecating from my armchair…..

    5. you are spot on there. i was looking at replacing my mondeo with a new one, but it’s simply too big. And what happened to the quick version (ST), there isn’t one. can you imagine trying to throw that great thing around ?

  4. This makes me sad.

    I’ve had a major soft spot for the Mondeo (and Ford’s European cars in general) since helping a non-enthusiast friend choose his new company car a number of years ago. He let me add freely to his shortlist of ‘3 series or A4’ and we ended up testing those, plus the Passat CC and previous generation Mondeo. I was astonished how much better the Mondeo was than the others in every respect other than the engine (the VW won that round): A remarkably refined and pleasant car to drive. I don’t know about the current generation but can’t imagine it’s worse than its predecessor?

  5. You might also say that cars are reverting to the proportions they had before the (Detroit-instigated) longer, lower, wider phase.

  6. 2 years ago the grand tour announced the death of fords saloon car. Its routes backdating to the ford cortina. I was part of the 700 mass exodus on lincoln that day in my mk4 mondeo and my wife in her mk3. I had a tear in my eye knowing this could well be happening. Ive been.a convert to the mondeo since i traded my sierra sapphire in all those years ago. A ford junkie since an early age and from a family of ford fans. In fact my entire family owns a mondeo or 1 mk or another. My father started in 1996 with a mk1 lx saloon. I followed a few years later with a mk1 v6 hatchback. He bought a brand new mk3 zetec when they came out and i upgraded to a mk2 ghia x top of the range 2lt petrol. We both upgraded again with him buying a mk4 ghia saloon and myself a mk3 tdci zetec s hatchback. Then my father traded the mk4 in for a facelift mk4 titainium x with the new ecoboost petrol and i bought a mk4 ghia. Then in 2015 he ordered his mk5 titanium x pack and i bought a facelift mk4 titainium x. I modify them. Upgrade them. Travelled over 100k in my mk3 tdci. Over 175k in my mk2 and clocked 91k in my titanium x. They are great to drive. comfortable motorway munchers and have a place where being tall a focus just doesnt fit me as well as the mondeo. Yes they are doing an suv version but it wont be a mondeo to me. Visions of the btcc super saloons. Race sunday buy monday. Jackie stewart driving a mondeo in press adverts. The citrine yellow hendy si. The st200 and st220. Seeing thousands of people at shows over the country in mondeos modified or standard. The mk1 being now a modern classic. Its a shame ford are doing this and i for one will be mourning its passing.

  7. Surely at least part of Ford’s problems stem from their sheer awkwardness/ugliness? The company that brought you such gems as the Mk1 Focus, Mk1 Ka, Mk1 Mondeo, Mk1 S-Max has a) trashed all of those with successor models, all of which look much, much worse than the originals. b) brought out more even more awkward models to supplement the above – the C-Max (awkward from every angle) the Ecosport (which surely even a mother would struggle to love) the B- Max (better but still not a happy design) . The Mondeo in its penultimate guise was too big but was quite a harmonious design, was then replaced with the current one with its odd roofline and its attempt to look like a cut and shut version of its predecessor. All curious decisions.

    The americans are supposed to be the masters of brand identity but Ford has churned through so many ‘family faces’ that it is not surprising that the consumer is confused. On the way it stumbled upon the brilliant idea of using the original Ford oval badge as a frontal theme (viz Mk1 Focus and Mondeo). I thought at the time that Ford had finally cracked the brand face thing. But no, that was binned almost immediately too.

    Now Ford are recycling model names on vehicles of totally different character – just in case you thought you knew what was going on!

    Good design, and a clear brand identity would be an excellent place to start your revival Ford!

    1. I don’t think that Ford of Europe has been well managed for more than an instant, because they had some great designs at the turn of the millenium such as the Gen1 Focus, Ka, Puma, and the Mondeo was pretty good too.

      But they don’t care about continuity and they cannot recognize the seeds of their own design greatness, so they instead pull out their own roots, replacing a truly great -Ford- design leader, Jack Telnack with a VAG man. J. Mays, now designs washing machines (Whirlpool), and one may suppose that his washing machines have tight panel gaps. For Ford this episode is reminiscent of when they poached Bunkie Knudsen from GM (mostly worked at Pontiac) in 1968.

      I will throw Chris Bangle’s name in here because I too was like “WTF is this?” ca. 2001, even though I like a lot of his work. BMW though had a history and longstanding brand values, so it seems they weathered the storm, and anyway those hideous eyebrows on E65 did expound upon a signature feature of the Neue Klass era designs (and I recall him boasting that E65’s tail lights “split the ‘L'” and as we know, BMW tail lights are all about the “L” even now). Ford, with Mays at the design helm wasn’t totally ignorant of its own ancient history either (GT, Mustang, err Thunderbird) and perhaps even hired Mays because of his (TT and New Beetle) “retro” bonafides. But like with Bangle at BMW, Ford under Mays seemed all too willing to discard the more recent bathwater that everyone else thought was still fresh and clean, especially the aforementioned turn of the millenium European lineup.

      It seems astounding that Telnack was at Ford for so long and had so many excellent designs to his credit, even at the end of his career (1996 Taurus excepted), yet there was no groomed heir at Ford who the Ford family could entrust to succeed him. Maybe Ford are not good at keeping their designers happy over the long term, or they just don’t value design enough to nurture young designers until they are competent to take over, or they don’t tend to trust their European arm, or even themselves. When I read about Ford history, I note that only one member of the Ford family ever distinguished themselves with a keen eye for design, but Edsel Ford died tragically young.

    2. Pete (thanks for stopping by btw) makes the point that Ford design appears somewhat scattergun nowadays, and that’s difficult to refute. There is perhaps a sense that the blue oval has not fixed upon a ‘house style’ and has instead burned through design talent in an attempt to do so without really achieving any lasting sense of continuity or purpose – on this side of the Atlantic at least.

      Having said that, in defence of current product, both Fiesta and Focus are decent designs, markedly better than most of their (more nominally upmarket) German rivals at least – although nowadays, that is hardly saying much. They are at the very least, inoffensive.

      In my opinion (and opinions may differ, Gooddog), the name missing in this discussion is that of Uwe Bahnsen, who presided over Ford’s Merkenich style centre for the best part of two decades, being responsible for some of the best-regarded and most loved Ford of Europe products, while nurturing and mentoring a whole generation of designers who themselves would go on to either head their own studios or at the very least produce notable designs for other carmakers. Also I believe, a man of considerable integrity, good taste and fine judgement, who was it is believed, cruelly ousted in of one of Mr. Telnack’s ego-driven schisms.

      In Bahnsen’s wake, Ford’s European arm has flailed about, occasionally hitting the mark, but frequently missing it. What is lacking from the current product is a sense of a clear identity, but I’m not sure how much it matters now. Wrong badge. Most people no longer aspire to a Ford, and I can’t see anything changing that on this side of the Atlantic at least – even here in Cork, Henry’s spiritual home.

  8. I agree Eóin, I can surely appreciate Bahnsen, for starters his amazingly transformative, yet relatively inexpensive facelift for Capri 3.

    At first I wrote what I intended to be a more coherent argument in answer to Pete which included the Sierra and Scorpio 1/Granada 3, but I got lost [jelly mould, kinnock ears, Fiat 130 posterior]… So I deleted that part. I hope that you might like to try to take this task onward.

  9. Good morning, gentlemen. It may ultimately prove to be too little, too late, but Ford’s recent models do display a coherent and not unpleasant styling theme, and appear to be pretty competitive with their peers. The Fiesta, Focus, Puma, Kuga and Mustang Mach-E are all competent designs with a recognisable family face. It is, of course, a shame about the repurposing of the historic Mustang and, to a lesser extent, Puma names.

  10. Eoin and Daniel, I’m surprised at you thinking that the current Focus is decent. The C pillar is a mess of conflicting angles, while the rear quarter-light has a totally unnecessary black panel. The rest isn’t bad, but those parts spoil the rest for me.

    1. Hi Andy. Granted, the Focus isn’t as distinguished a design as the Mk1 or Mk2, but it’s not bad and is recognisable as a current generation Ford, which was my point:

      The C-pillar is a bit weak at the top of the DLO (especially on the estate) but I’m not sure what you mean about the unnecessary black panel. Are you referring to the shading in the glass?

      In any event, the Focus is, I think, a rather better job than either of these”premium” efforts:

    2. The current Focus hatch is growing on me, gradually. In particular, its deep DLO is a welcome reversal to recent trends and it lends the car a less bulky, lighter look. I find the side panels over-featured, the rear still too like the current Tipo and the front a bit like it’s chewing a wasp. Another recent Ford which is a grower is the Puma – one passed me on the M1 on Saturday and it was nicer than I remembered, but, for me still rather begs the question of what it’s for. I don’t think the Mach-E is anything to celebrate and the new Kuga is inoffensive at best.

      For me the current Mondeo is still a handsome if now over-familiar car and the most recent face-lift kept it freshly aligned with the rest of the Ford range (I’d say the same thing about the Mazda6, which I would still call the most attractive looking car in its segment), even if you can see the cut and stitch scar-lines.

    1. Hello Mr. Taylor,

      the picture link didn’t work but I think we can see the black shading around the C-pillar you were talking about in this picture:

    2. Frustrating. I went to the Focus home page on the Ford site and scrolled down, and it’s a white Focus parked facing uphill, with a very fancy modern grooved building, and there definitely seems to be more of it blocked out. I do need to get out more (or get on with my work…).

    3. Hi Andy. Here’s the photo you mention from the Ford UK website:

      You’re right: the rear quarter light does indeed look odd in that photo, but NRJ’s image shows it as it is in reality. I think the windows in the car in Ford’s image are reflecting something behind the camera, hence what looks like a much larger shaded area in the rear quarter-light.

      Here’s what it looks like from inside:

      The shaded area is completely concealed by the frame.

  11. LJKS always stated that any design that needed hunks of black paint and/or chrome to ‘work’ was a flawed design. And this is an opinion I totally agree with. Sadly the current crop of cars from virtually any manufacturer is plastered with the stuff.

    Is this a time to air my absolute design bête noir – the hidden door handle? Any designer perpetrating this horror should seriously consider a change of career. Not a crime that Ford have been guilty of – yet!

    I am particularly upset by the decline in the design of the Focus. Why do Ford think half the world is buying faux 4x4s? For the ease of access and egress. So having very sensibly come up with a fabulously coherent design for a slightly taller hatchback in the first Focus, a trend which I had hoped would initiate a decline in the sales of pointless faux 4x4s, they have since backtracked and joined the herd with stupidly low Foci. The latest being the worst offender. My wife, for one, would never contemplate trying to get in or out of one of those. Surely the grey pound is something to chase?

    1. Well, um, actually…

      “Let’s give them something to talk about” – Bonnie Raitt (Shirley Eikhard, songwriter)

      Both front and rear doors are popped open electrically using trigger buttons mounted inconspicuously on the B and C pillars. The front doors get a small fixed hook-handle reminiscent of the Ferrari Daytona’s latch (oooh!), while the rear doors have no handle at all (whoa!).

      I think it is safe to say that a lot of people will react badly to this, but that is apparently OK.

      “There is no such thing as bad publicity” – P.T. Barnum

      We should be talking about EV range, or charging times, or skidpad g-numbers (yeah, sure) or how many mountain bikes will fit, or even software. But not this time. Deliveries were supposed to start in November 2020, so we have at least two more months to scratch our heads and wonder out loud about horse feathers and non-existent door handles.

  12. To be fair, if all the handles were hidden I would be less upset by them! It is the ‘oh look it’s a two door, with hidden rear doors’ thing that offends me. How stupid/blind do they think we are? a) the front doors are too short b) the shutlines! We can see the doors, they just look stupid because the front ones have handles and the rear ones don’t! OK I will shut up about it now. I have vented my spleen! Next time it is the ludicrous gaping gobs that all cars seem to be blessed with nowadays. Mostly blanked off as they serve no useful function other than to ruin the aerodynamics. Surely a regressive step after we had virtually eliminated them in the 80s?

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