Friday, March 2, 2018

Abandoned Edsels

I love old cars, but I hate Edsels, boxy, low-riding, with that hideous triangular toilet seat glommed on to the front. But seeing them abandoned and rusting away like this is somehow comforting. Collectors cherish these things because of their rarity, and the taint forever associated with it: from then on, anything which bombed badly after a huge buildup was called an "Edsel". The fact it was named after Henry Ford's son made the failure particularly excruciating. Wikipedia explains it like this:

Edsel and its failures

Historians have advanced several theories in an effort to explain the Edsel's failure. Popular culture often faults the car’s styling. Consumer Reports has alleged that poor workmanship was the Edsel's chief problem. Marketing experts hold the Edsel up as a supreme example of the corporate culture’s failure to understand American consumers. Business analysts cite the weak internal support for the product inside Ford’s executive offices. According to author and Edsel scholar* Jan Deutsch, the Edsel was "the wrong car at the wrong time."

"The aim was right, but the target moved"

The Edsel is most notorious for being a marketing disaster. The name "Edsel" became synonymous with the real-life commercial failure of the predicted "perfect" product or product idea. Similar ill-fated products have often been colloquially referred to as "Edsels". Ford's own Sierra model, which launched almost 25 years later, is often compared to the Edsel owing to initial buyer antipathy to its perceived radical styling, even though, unlike the Edsel, it ultimately became a sales success. 

Since the Edsel program was such a debacle, it gave marketers a vivid illustration of how not to market a product. The principal reason the Edsel's failure is so infamous is that Ford had absolutely no idea that the failure was going to happen until after the vehicles had been designed and built, the dealerships established and $400 million invested in the product's development and launch. Incredibly, Ford had presumed to invest $400 million (well over $4.0 billion in the 21st century) in developing a new product line without attempting to determine whether such an investment would be wise or prudent.

The prerelease advertising campaign promoted the car as having "more YOU ideas", and the teaser advertisements in magazines only revealed glimpses of the car through a highly blurred lens or wrapped in paper or under tarps. In fact, Ford had never test-marketed the vehicle or its unique styling concepts with potential buyers prior to either the vehicle’s initial development decision or the vehicle’s shipments to its new dealerships. Edsels were shipped to the dealerships undercover and remained wrapped on the dealer lots.

*My only question is: what's an Edsel scholar? Imagine doing THAT all day.

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