The front-drive Escort Mk II came in 1980 and was the fastest-selling car in Ford of Europe's history, selling a million units in just 13 months. Combined with its U.S. version, it became the best-selling car in the world. Ford of Europe reorganized its hot-car division, turning AVO into Special Vehicle Engineering or SVE, in 1980, under the tutelage of brilliant engineer, driver and racer Rod Mansfield, who would later go on to run Aston Martin. SVE has been turning out limited-production versions of most of Ford of Europe's models ever since, including the current Mondeo ST 200 and Focus ST 170.
For his lifelong contributions to the British economy and British culture in general, Henry Ford II was given an honorary knighthood in 1982. (Ford of Britain had the best-selling cars there for years on end, with market shares as high as 45%.)
The first Ford car of the aero generation, the Sierra, was introduced in 1982, and like the Fiesta and Escort before it and the Scorpio, Mondeo and Focus after it, was named European Car of the Year for its needle-moving design (both Sierra and Scorpio were sold here briefly under the Merkur name). In 1984, Ford finally achieved what Henry Ford and Henry Ford II had always wanted when Ford became the best-selling nameplate in Europe for the first time ever with the combination of Fiesta, Escort and Sierra.
The largest Ford-branded car ever sold in Europe, called Scorpio in continental Europe and Granada in England, was introduced in 1985, along with a permanent all-wheel-drive version of the Sierra sedan known as the XR4X4. Scorpio was the first car in Europe to have ABS brakes on all models.
In 1987, Ford of Europe was shocked to its very roots, along with the rest of the Ford world, when, on September 29, the high-living, hard-drinking, art-collecting, world-traveling, thrice-married Henry Ford II went to his big corner office in the sky.
Three weeks later, Ford, which had already acquired AC Cars from its then-owner Brian Angliss (later spun off after legal wrangling), saved Aston Martin Lagonda from extinction when it bought up the shares of its two major stockholders. Two years later, on December 1, 1989, Ford spent $2.5 billion to acquire Jaguar and save it, too, from certain death after an unsuccessful British government bailout scheme had run its course. Cosworth joined the fold in 1998, Pi Research in 1999, AB Volvo in 1999 and Land Rover in 2000.
Ford's business in Europe is so huge, so complex and so far-reaching that for many years Ford of Europe was a breeding ground for future senior executives, on the theory that, if you could sell cars in the cauldron of Europe, against VW, GM, PSA, Renault and Fiat, you were a pretty smart guy. Former Ford chairmen Don Petersen, Red Poling and Alex Trotman made their bones in Europe, along with guys like Bob Lutz and Jac Nasser (they can't all be winners), current Ford chairman and CEO William Clay Ford, Jr. (Ford Commercial Vehicles boss and Ford of Switzerland managing director, 1987-88), current Ford president Nick Scheele, current Ford of Europe boss and heir apparent David Thursfield, and designers Jack Telnack, Andy Jacobson, Uwe Bahnsen and Patrick Le Quement (now of Renault), to name but a few. J Mays, Ford's design boss, and a European (working for Audi and VW) by way of Oklahoma, recently opened a design center in the heart of London that will generate designs for all of Ford's products and subsidiaries around the world and do contract industrial design work as well.