OPINION - The Fiesta’s over, so is it finally time to go electric?

End of an era: production of the iconic Fiesta ceases in June 2023 (Ford)
End of an era: production of the iconic Fiesta ceases in June 2023 (Ford)

I have fond memories of my old Ford Fiesta, even that hot summer I drove ripe camembert across France without air con.

So when I heard the news that Ford is shelving production of the iconic model after 46 years on sale - I had mixed feelings.

There were three things that really stood out to me in the wake of the announcement.

We’re finally taking electric cars seriously.

It’s a big deal for Ford to cease production of what was, as recently as 2020, the UK’s best-selling car.

The carmaker explained the move was to focus on "accelerating our efforts to go all in on electrification," which makes sense considering that more pure electric vehicles were sold in 2021 than the previous five years combined, according to recent research from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

Whilst the Fiesta has been a ‘top-seller’ for over 20 years, last year it dropped out of the rankings, making room for its electric competitors like the Tesla Model 3. In taking this step, Ford demonstrates clear confidence that the EV transition is gathering pace - despite the naysayers suggesting we’re not ready for it.

But people don’t like change...

It’s interesting that Ford has opted to electrify its US flagship models, the F150 and Mustang, rather than start afresh.

Maybe this is down to our strong emotional attachment to cars and innate reluctance to major change. Research shows that 30 per cent of people believe that current EV batteries do not provide sufficient range for their daily activities, whereas the data shows that over 90 per cent of journeys could be completed in a single charge. So despite popular belief, current EV battery ranges mean most people will get where they need to easily, without having to choose between air con or eeking out the last few miles.

Once over these range concerns, there’s a lot of enjoyment to be had from driving an EV. A colleague recently bought an electric Mini and, although it’s a squeeze to even fit two children in the back and the boot size is laughable, they describe the car as “completely loveable.”

Supporting these anecdotes, one study showed that 74 per cent of people felt more relaxed driving an EV and 77 per cent found it smoother to drive than a combustion engine car - I certainly don’t miss a clutch or gear stick. Of course, there’s also the smugness of knowing you’re doing something good for the planet, too.

...And cost is still an issue.

Will those who would have selected a Ford Fiesta now choose to buy an EV instead? Possibly, but maybe not a new one due to the cost differential - the price of a Fiesta starts at just over £18k, while similar-sized EVs start at around £25k, according to online marketplace Heycare.

But most Fiesta’s are purchased second hand and the used EV market remains buoyant compared to the internal combustion engine market - especially driven by limited supply. Earlier this yeara survey showed nearly half of drivers think an EV is unaffordable and many are concerned about eventually being priced off the road. Through increased investment and production volumes, cost parity between EVs and non-EVs should be reached by 2026, but it will take a while for the benefits to be passed down to the used car market.

So, the good news is that the move to greener, cleaner transport is gaining momentum - despite the extinction of some auto icons. But unfortunately it will be some time until everyone can afford to participate, and even then, some people might opt out until there is enough positive sentiment to combat their fears.

Melissa Gander is an energy and net zero expert. She has worked in energy for over 15 years and is Chief Operating Officer of intelligent energy platform Kaluza.