Friday 5th March 1993
Ford introduced the “world car” Mondeo in Europe, 18 months before the Ford Contour in U.S.
Instigated in 1986, the design of the car cost Ford US$6 billion. It was one of the most expensive new car programmes ever. The Mondeo was significant as its design and marketing was shared between Ford USA in Dearborn, and Ford of Europe. Its codename while under development reflected thus: CDW27 signified that it straddled the C & D size classes and was a “world car”. The head of the Mondeo project was John Oldfield, headquartered at Ford Dunton in Essex.
A large proportion of the high development cost was due to the Mondeo being a completely new design, sharing very little, if anything, with the Ford Sierra. Unlike the Sierra, the Mondeo is front-wheel drive in its most common form, with a rarer four-wheel drive version available on the Mk I car only. Over optimistically the floor pan was designed to accept virtually any conceivable drivetrain, from a transverse four to a longitudinal V-8. This resulted in a hugely obtrusive and mostly disused bellhousing cover and transmission tunnel. The resulting interior front of the car, especially the footwells, feel far more cramped than would be expected from a vehicle of this size. The Mondeo featured new manual and automatic transmissions and sophisticated suspension design, which give it class-leading handling and ride qualities, and subframes front and rear to give it executive car refinement. The automatic transmission featured electronic control with sport and economy modes plus switchable overdrive. The programme manager from 1988, and throughout its early development, was David Price.
The car was launched in the midst of turbulent times at Ford of Europe, when the division was haemorrhaging hundreds of millions of dollars, and had gained a reputation in the motoring press for selling products which had been designed by accountants rather than engineers. The fifth generation Escort and third generation Orion of 1990 was the zenith of this cost-cutting/high price philosophy which was by then beginning to backfire on Ford, with the cars being slated for their substandard ride and handling, though a facelift in 1992 had seen things improve a little. The Sierra had sold well, but not as well as the all-conquering Cortina before it, and in Britain, it had been overtaken in the sales charts by the newer Vauxhall Cavalier. Previously loyal customers were already turning to rival European and Japanese products, and by the time of the Mondeo’s launch, the future of Europe as a Ford manufacturing base was hanging in the balance. The new car had to be good, and it had to sell.
Safety was a high priority in the Mondeo design with a driver’s side airbag (it was the first ever car sold from the beginning with a driver’s airbag in all of its versions, which helped it achieve the ECOTY title for 1994), side-impact bars, seat belt pretensioners, and ABS (higher models) as standard features. Other features for its year included adaptive damping, self-levelling suspension (top estate models), traction control (V6 and 4WD versions), and heated front windscreen, branded Quickclear.
The interiors were usually well-appointed, featuring velour trim, an arm rest with CD and tape storage, central locking (frequently remote), power windows (all round on higher models), power mirrors, illuminated entry, flat-folding rear seats, etc. Higher specification models had leather seats, trip computers, electric sunroof, CD changer and alloy wheels.
During its development, Ford used the 1986 Honda Accord and in the later stages the 1990 Nissan Primera as the class benchmarks that the CDW27 had to beat.
In December 1998, Ford released in Europe a sports car with a coupé body shell based upon the Mk II Mondeo called the Ford Cougar (or Mercury Cougar in North America). This car shared the engines (2.0 I4, 2.5 V6), transmissions, suspension (partially) and floorpans from the Mondeo, but the body shell was unique to the Cougar, and was one of the last Ford cars to be designed under Ford’s New Edge philosophy.