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Edsel

The Edsel was introduced by Ford Motor Company amidst a considerable amount of publicity on September 4, 1957. Research and development had begun in 1955 under the name "E-car" which stood for "Experimental car".

This represented a new division of Ford alongside Ford, Mercury, Lincoln and Continental. The short-lived Edsel division existed from November 1956 until January 1958, after which Edsels were made by the Lincoln-Edsel-Mercury division. Edsel was sold through a new network of 1500 dealers. This briefly brought total dealers of all Ford products to 10,000. Ford saw this as a way to come closer to parity with the other two companies of the Big Three: Chrysler had 10,000 dealers and GM had 16,000. As it was quickly realized that Edsel was failing many of these dealers added Lincoln and Mercury dealerships to their lines with the encouragement of Ford Motor Company. Some dealers, however, closed.

For the 1958 model year, Edsel produced 4 models, including the larger Citation and Corsair, the Pacer and the smaller, more affordable Ranger. The Citation came in 2 door, 4 door, and two door convertible versions. The Corsair came in 2 door and 4 door versions. The Pacer came in 2 door, 4 door, 2 door sedan, and 2 door convertible. The Ranger came in 2 door, 4 door, 2 door sedan and 4 door sedan versions. The Bermuda Wagon, Villager Wagon, and Roundup Wagon were based the three larger Edsel models. It included several features that were, at the time, cutting-edge innovations, among which were its "rolling dome" speedometer and its "teletouch" transmission shifting system, on the center of the steering wheel. 63,110 Edsels sold the first year, below expectations but the second largest car launch for any brand to date. Only Plymouth introduction in 1928 was better.

For the 1959 model year there were only 2 Edsels: the Ranger and the Corsair which was really a relabeled Pacer. The two larger cars were not produced. The new Corsair came in 2 door, 4 door, 4 door sedan, and 2 door convertible. The Ranger came in 2 door, 4 door, 2 door sedan and 4 door sedan and the Villager station wagon. 44891 cars sold in model year 1959.

For the 1960 model year, Edsel's last, only the Ranger and Villager were produced. A mere 2848 cars were produced before the Edsel was dropped on November 19, 1959.

Edsel's Failure The Edsel is most famous for being a marketing disaster. Indeed, the name "Edsel" came to be synonymous with commercial failure, and similar ill-fated products, such as the Betamax, have often been colloquially referred to as "Edsels."

After an initial United States sales goal of 100,000 - 200,000 for the model year 1958, the Edsel went on to sell only 100,847 in the U.S. over the course of the three years it was in production, with an additional 7,431 sold in Canada (it was not marketed overseas).

Several reasons are given for its downfall. One is consumer letdown following the large publicity buildup prior to the model's release. The campaign cost Ford $250 million, and included "teaser" advertisements in magazines showing pictures of the car highly-blurred or wrapped in paper.

The name of the car, Edsel, is also often cited as one reason for its unpopularity. Ford ran internal studies to decide on a name. They reached no conclusions. Ford hired the advertising firm Foote, Cone and Belding[?] to come up with a name. The ideas put forth by this firm were likewise all rejected, and at the behest of Ernest Breech[?], who was chairing a meeting in the absence of Henry Ford II, the car was finally called "Edsel" in honor of Edsel Ford, former company president and son of Henry Ford. Marketing surveys later found the name was thought to sound odd and therefore was unpopular with the public; additionally, some sources claim that the decision to name the car after Edsel Ford was disapproved of by the Ford family from the very beginning.

Perhaps the most important factor in the Edsel's failure, however, was that when the car was introduced, the U.S. was entering a period of recession. Sales for all car manufacturers, even those not introducing new models, were down; consumers entered a period of preferring less expensive, more fuel-efficient automobiles. The Edsel, moreover, was priced higher than comparable models offered by competing automotive firms at the time. In this respect it was not a failure while it did not hit it sales target based on 1955 sales numbers, it did acheive the pprojected percentage of sales for it class. The 100,000 cars target was 3.3% of mid-size cars sold in 1955 when the design process began, the Edsel acheived 5% of mid-size cars sales in 1959 when the car was first sold. Several other car companies did not survive this market downturn: Nash Motors and Hudson[?] closed in 1957, Packard in 1958, and De Soto[?] in 1960.

Various other problems were cited, including the unpopularity of the Edsel's trademark "horsecollar" grille, which made it stand out from other cars of the period, and reports that there were mechanical flaws in the model originating in the factory, due to lack of quality control and confusion of parts with other Ford models.

The "horsecollar" grille was dropped for the 1960 model; 1960 Edsels had a body-type almost indistinguishable from the Mercury cars released that year. The Edsel was discontinued after production of the 1960 version in November, 1959.

The scheduled 1961 Edsel Comet subcompact car was relabeled the Mercury Comet[?] and sold more cars in its first year than all models of Edsel ever produced.

Fewer than 6,000 Edsels currently survive and today they are considered collectors items, sometimes selling for over $20,000 if in good condition.



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