The Ford Fiesta is a supermini marketed by Ford since 1976 over seven generations. It has been manufactured in the United Kingdom, Germany, Spain, Australia, Chile, Brazil, Argentina, Venezuela, Mexico, Taiwan, China, India, Thailand, and South Africa.
In 2008, the sixth generation Fiesta (Mark VI) was introduced worldwide, making it the first Fiesta model to be sold in North America since the Fiesta Mark I was discontinued at the end of 1980.
The Fiesta was originally designed by the project “Bobcat” team headed by Trevor Erskine (not to be confused with the subsequent badge engineered Mercury variant of the Ford Pinto) and approved for development by Henry Ford II in September 1972,
just after the launch of two comparable cars – the Fiat 127 and Renault 5. More than a decade earlier, Ford had decided against producing a new small car to rival BMC's Mini as the production cost was deemed too high, but the 1973 oil crisis saw a rise in the already growing demand for smaller cars.
The Fiesta was an all new car in the supermini segment, and was the smallest car yet made by Ford. Development targets indicated a production cost US$100 less than the current Escort.
The car was to have a wheelbase longer than that of the Fiat 127, but with overall length shorter than that of Ford's Escort. The final proposal was developed by Tom Tjaarda at Ghia, overseen by Ford of Europe's then chief stylist Uwe Bahnsen.
The project was approved for production in late 1973, with Ford's engineering centres in Cologne and Dunton (Essex) collaborating.
Ford estimated that 500,000 Fiestas a year would be produced, and built an all-new factory near Valencia, Spain; a trans-axle factory near Bordeaux, France; factory extensions for the assembly plants in Dagenham, UK.
Final assembly also took place in Valencia.
The name Fiesta (meaning "party" in Spanish) belonged to General Motors, used as a trim level on Oldsmobile station wagons, when the car was designed and was freely given for Ford to use on their new B-class car.
After years of speculation by the motoring press about Ford's new car, it was subject to a succession of carefully crafted press leaks from the end of 1975.
A Fiesta was on display at the Le Mans 24 Hour Race in June 1976, and the car went on sale in France and Germany in September 1976; to the frustration of UK dealerships,
right hand drive versions only began to appear in January 1977.
Its initial competitors in Europe, apart from the Fiat 127 and Renault 5, included the Volkswagen Polo and Vauxhall Chevette. Chrysler UK were also about to launch the Sunbeam by this stage, and British Leyland was working on a new supermini which was launched as the Austin Metro in 1980.