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Stateside Podcast: A Ford Fiesta's final trek

RL GNZLZ via flickr | remixed by Rachel Ishikawa

For most people living in the Detroit area, seeing a Ford Fiesta drive by would be a completely normal and unremarkable event. In the birthplace of the American auto industry, a Ford Fiesta wouldn’t necessarily stick out amongst a sea of Ford vehicles. But not all Ford Fiestas are created equally.

Dorian Degoutte is a French documentary filmmaker and the proud owner of a 1997 Ford Fiesta that was handed down to him by his grandfather. Although it is an American made vehicle, the Ford Fiesta is one of the most popular cars in Europe. But when it came time for Degoutte to repair his aging car, he ran into a dilemma.

This type of car, because they are so ordinary, because there are so many in Europe, in France, in Spain, I mean everywhere in Europe, you don't fix it. You just put it to the trash,” Degoutte said.

Despite the fact that Degoutte wanted to make the necessary repairs to keep his beloved car working, it wouldn’t have made financial sense to do so. Because the car had such sentimental value, Degoutte could not bring himself to send the car to a junkyard. Instead, he decided to take one last journey with his car to the place where it all began.

I put myself in the mind of my car thinking about where she would like to go,” Degoutte said. “I was going back to my roots of my family in another city in France where I live now. And then I thought that maybe my car wanted to do the same, you know, come back to its roots. And then I knew that its roots was in America and the roots of Ford was Detroit. And then I felt that, let's go to Detroit.”

True to his word, Degoutte then went through the laborious task of shipping his car to the United States across the Atlantic Ocean, all the while documenting the process for a film. Eventually, after reaching out to Ford Motor Company in search of people for his documentary, Dorian Degoutte met automotive reporter Phoebe Wall-Howard of The Detroit Free Press. According to Wall-Howard, the Ford Fiesta has a rich history in Europe.

What's incredible about this particular vehicle is that there were 30 years when Ford did not sell the Fiesta in the United States from 1980 to 2010. So it was very popular in Europe. They didn't stop selling in Europe. So actually, when Dorian is driving in Detroit, it's actually like a celebrity vehicle, a 1997 Fiesta,” Wall-Howard said.

Though his Ford Fiesta will soon go to its final resting place in Pennsylvania, Dorian Degoutte believes that his car’s final journey will keep it alive forever. For Phoebe Wall Howard, its story is a symbol of how Detroit has maintained a name for itself across the globe through the legacy of Ford Motor Company.

“That's quite a statement that families in Europe and all over the world know the beginning of Ford Motor Company, and the idea of coming back to where everything started is something we sometimes take for granted,” Wall Howard said.

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Rachel Ishikawa joined Michigan Public in 2020 as a podcast producer. She produced Kids These Days, a limited-run series that launched in the summer of 2020.
Anna joined Stateside as an assistant producer in August 2021. She is a recent graduate of Michigan State University's School of Journalism and previously worked for The State News as an intern and student government reporter.