Codenamed “Erika”, the third generation Escort was launched in September 1980. The code name alluded to the leader of the product planning team, Erick A. Reickert.  The North American Escort introduced at this time was a derivative. The two vehicles were intended to share component designs, but separate engineering organizations and government regulations made this impractical.

Unlike the Mark II, which had essentially been a reskin of the original 1968 platform, the Mark III was a completely new “wheels-up” design, and was conceived as a hi-tech, high-efficiency vehicle which would compete with the Volkswagen Golf – considered at the time the class benchmark, and indeed the car was launched with the advertising tagline “Simple is Efficient“. The Mark III was a radical departure from the two previous models, the biggest changes being the adoption of front-wheel drive, and the newhatchback body, which introduced trademark styling cues which would be later seen in the forthcomingSierra and Scorpio, most notably the “Aeroback” rear end — the “sawn off” bootlid stump which was proved to reduce the car’s drag coefficient -at the time a class leading value of 0.37.

Info gleaned from Wikipedia

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