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Happy birthday Mondeo man, wherever you are

Ford is celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Mondeo but it would be fair to say that they are doing so rather quietly. Younger drivers might be tempted to ask 'so what?' but there was a time when this car defined not just a motoring niche but a whole new class of Britons. Ford's full size saloon was always big news.

Ford is celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Mondeo but it would be fair to say that they are doing so rather quietly. Younger drivers might be tempted to ask 'so what?' but there was a time when this car defined not just a motoring niche but a whole new class of Britons. Ford's full size saloon was always big news. The Cortina probably started it off, selling like hot cakes and becoming the nation's favourite. Its successor was awaited with baited breath. The Sierra duly came along and was derided for its 'jelly mould' looks. Then it sold like those cakes anyway. When the Sierra gave way to the Mondeo in 1993 it was huge news. Ford spent some £3 billion on developing the new car, an unheard of sum and still a major investment for a new model today.

Part of the reason for investing so much in the Mondeo was that it was to be a 'world car' sold across the globe with little modification in all of Ford's markets. That never quite came to pass but there is no doubt that in Europe and in the UK particularly, it was a huge hit. It was European Car of the Year in 1994 and sold almost 130,000 units in the UK in its first year of production. More than that, it became part of our psyche. As Labour swept to power under Tony Blair in 1996, he did so on the support of a new aspirational middle-class voter they called 'Mondeo Man.' It wasn't a bad car either. An enjoyable drive and well built, it seemed it could tick just about every box for the family and company car driver.

Fast forward 20 years and how things have changed. Last year Ford sold just over 21,000 Mondeos in the UK, just 17% of the 1994 figure. So where has Mondeo man gone? It seems he did indeed have aspirations and some have moved upmarket. It will surprise many that the premium priced BMW 3 series now sells more than double the number of Mondeos in the UK, with over 44,000 sold last year. Other drivers, perhaps mindful of emissions and economy, have downsized into a Ford Focus or one of its competitors. Perhaps the biggest change though is the simple fragmentation of the market. Drivers are now choosing from crossovers, 4x4s, MPVs and SUVs, whereas before the choice was limited to saloon, estate or hatchback. In the next few years there will no doubt be a replacement for the ageing Mondeo but now the question is: will anyone notice?

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