At a time when compact, economical foreign cars were enjoying so much popularity in the market, Ford knew that it had to have an entry in the same category to regain its bearings. And so Ford’s first world car was born: the Ford Escort. The Ford Escort was the company’s first car to receive so much worldwide acclaim, paving the way for many more worldwide successes to follow.
1981: First generation
The Escort nameplate wasn’t really brand-new when the first cars rolled into the North American market in 1981. In fact, Ford Europe had been selling Escorts for ten years before the car was introduced to the American market. The European Ford Escort had been enjoying immense popularity in Europe. So when the American Ford market experienced major competition from the likes of the Toyota Corolla, Honda Civic, and Volkswagen Rabbit, Ford decided to respond with its own compact car.
The Escort was Ford's introduction of front-wheel-drive vehicles in North America. It was offered as a two-door hatchback and a four-door station wagon. Both were equipped with a 65 horsepower four-cylinder engine. In 1982, Ford launched a four-door hatchback to spice up the Escort lineup. A major change for the first generation Escort came in 1987 when Ford phased out all carburetors in favor of fuel-injected engines. The first generation Escort was received with much acclaim and went as far as being the best-selling car in America for almost an entire decade.
1991: Second generation
From a European-based design, the Ford Escort jumped to an Asian-inspired one for its second generation. It adapted much of the systems used by Mazda Familia although the Escort’s fascia resembled that of the Ford Taurus.
The second generation Ford Escort received a lukewarm reception when it entered the market as a hatchback. But when the Escort sedan came around a year later in 1992, it started to regain its first-generation popularity. The Escort was offered as a two-door and four-door hatchback, a four-door sedan, and a four-door station wagon. It had three trim levels: the regular Pony trim, the luxury LX trim, and the sporty GT package.
1997: Third generation
For its third and final generation, the Ford Escort replaced its hatchback options with a sleeker and sportier Ford Escort coupe: the Escort ZX2. But by this time, the automobile world was at a faster-than-ever pace and the Ford Escort had some trouble keeping up despite various improvements in ride and power. One by one, the Ford Escort family was reduced. The Escort station wagon was phased out in 1999 and the Last Ford Escort sedan rolled out in 2002, giving way to Ford’s new champion in the compact car segment: the Ford Focus.