Drivers have never had it so good

There’s one very good reason to feel upbeat about motoring today: the amount of metal we get for our money.

In real terms, the cost of cars has stayed relatively static, yet what we’re buying has improved immeasurably. On price alone think of the Ford Fiesta. At its launch in 1976 the basic model cost £1856. In today’s money the Bank of England reckons that’s £11,313. Prices for today’s Fiesta start at £9995. Or there’s the Jaguar MkII. It was considered uniquely cheap at £1534 in 1959. That’s £30,225 today. Today’s equivalent, the XF, starts at £29,945.

Thirty years ago, SEAT launched its first car developed as an independent company. The Ibiza had a 1.5-litre engine that produced 85bhp. It cost from £3939. In today’s money that’s £10,721. It had a carburettor, wind-up windows, a radio and errr, that’s about it.

Carburettor, wind-up windows, radio and that's it. For only £690 more you can get today's far more sophisticated equivalent

Carburettor, wind-up windows, radio and that’s it. For only £690 more you can get today’s far more sophisticated equivalent

For £689 more, the current Ibiza has air-conditioning, electric front windows, remote central locking, an alarm, electronic stability control plus front airbags, power steering and an MP3 compatible sound system all as standard. It’s got a 1.2-litre 12-valve engine with 70bhp that’s good for 52.5mpg. The original was capable of just 36.2mpg.

Go back just two decades and Britain’s best-seller, the Ford Escort in basic Encore form had no electric windows, power steering was only available with the diesel, there was no central locking and no ABS, although a driver’s airbag was standard.

This lack of kit would be fine if it had been correspondingly cheap. But it wasn’t. The price for the cheapest three-door 1.3 Escort Encore was £9495 or £15,458 today. For £13,995, the equivalent Focus Studio has as standard ABS, alloy wheels, electric front windows, central locking, air-conditioning, steering wheel controls for the audio system, a Tyre Pressure Monitoring System, and like every other mainstream car, power steering.

Chairman and managing director of Ford in Britain Mark Ovenden explained why we’re getting so much more for our money: “Vehicles are engineered to global standards which dramatically reduces complexity and duplication, and delivers far greater economies of scale. We have also worked hard to drive out cost and eliminate waste in manufacturing and distribution.” The result is that in terms of the cars we drive, we’ve never had it so good.


About James Foxall

My 25-year career has been built on writing words that audiences want to read. Those words have been clear, concise, and imbued with the personality of the organisation they were shaped for. They’ve appeared in specialist magazines and national newspapers as well as marketing materials for commercial organisations. I was motoring editor at the News of the World for seven years and I still write a regular column for the Daily Telegraph. More recently as companies become publishers I’ve transferred my editorial skills to commercial organisations. My entire career has been in the automotive industry; my passion for effective communication is still rivalled only by my love of cars and motor sport. View all posts by James Foxall

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