Like the smaller Ford Laser, the Telstar was, in fact, based on a model produced by Mazda in Japan, the Mazda 626, the differences being confined to some styling, engine sizes, and specification. The first model was launched in 1983, replacing the Ford Cortina. Unlike the Cortina, or its Sierra successor, the Telstar was usually only available as a sedan or hatchback (known as the TX5). However a Telstar version of the 626 wagon was sold in Japan and also New Zealand.
In Australia, local assembly of the Telstar was short-lived, and for a while the model was almost replaced by the Ford Corsair, which was simply a facelifted version of the Nissan Pintara. The two sold side by side in the ford range for a few years. Later when Nissan ended manufacturing in Australia, the Corsair was dropped and the Telstar, fully imported from Japan, once again became Ford's offering in the medium size segment of the market, until 1995, when it was replaced by the Mondeo.
In New Zealand, the Telstar, like the Laser, was assembled locally up to 1997, at the Ford/Mazda joint venture plant in Auckland called Vehicle Assemblers of New Zealand (VANZ). The plant closed in the light of lowering import tariffs and the flood of used vehicles imported from Japan, many of which were mechanically identical Mazda Capellas (as the 626 is known in Japan). A high performance version of the Telstar, known as the Radisich after the New Zealand racing driver, was also sold locally.