In Sept. 12 IssueRussell County NewsBy Ron Cowell, Columnist
The Edsel was introduced on "E Day"—September 4th, 1957. It was promoted by a top-rated television special, The Edsel Show on October 13th of that year. It was not enough to counter the adverse public reaction to the car's styling and conventional build. For months, Ford had been circulating rumors that led consumers to expect an entirely new kind of car, when in reality, the Edsel shared its bodywork with other Ford models.
The Edsel was to be sold through a new Ford division. It existed from November 1956 until January 1958, after which Edsels were made by the Mercury-Edsel-Lincoln division. Edsel was sold through a new network of 1,500 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 General Motors had 16,000. As soon as it became apparent that the Edsels were not selling, many of these dealers added Lincoln-Mercury, Ford of Britain, or Ford of Germany franchises to their dealerships with the encouragement of Ford Motor Company. Some dealers, however, closed.
For the 1958 model year, Edsel produced four models, including the larger Mercury-based Citation and Corsair, and the smaller Ford-based Pacer and Ranger. The Citation came in two-door and four-door hardtop and two-door convertible versions. The Corsair came in two-door and four-door hardtop versions. The Pacer was available as a two-door or four-door hardtop, four-door sedan, or two-door convertible. The Ranger came in two-door and four-door hardtop or sedan versions. The four-door Bermuda and Villager wagons and the two-door Roundup wagon were based on the 116?-wheelbase Ford station wagon platform and shared the trim and features of the Ranger and Pacer models. It included several innovative features, among which were its "rolling dome" speedometer and its push button, teletouch transmission shifting system in the center of the steering wheel. Other design innovations included ergonomically designed controls for the driver and self-adjusting brakes.
In the first year, 63,110 Edsels were sold in the U.S., with another 4,935 sold in Canada. Though below expectations, it was still the second-largest car launch for any brand to date, exceeded only by the Plymouth introduction in 1928.
For the 1959 model year, there were only two Edsels, the Ranger and the Corsair; the two larger cars were not produced. The new Corsair came in two-door and four-door hardtop, four-door sedan, and two-door convertible. The Ranger came in two-door and four-door hardtop, two-door and four-door sedan, and the Villager station wagon. In the 1959 model year, 44,891 cars were sold in the U.S., with an additional 2,505 sold in Canada.
For the 1960 model year, Edsel's last, only 2,846 vehicles were produced. All but the pilot cars were made at the Louisville, Kentucky assembly plant.
Ford announced the end of the Edsel program on November 19th, 1959. However, cars continued being produced until late in November, with the final tally at 2,846 1960 models. Total sales were approximately 84,000, less than half the company's projected break-even point. The company lost $350 million. All totaled, 118,287 Edsels were built, including 7,440 produced in Ontario, Canada. This figure may seem large, but by automotive standards, it was dismal, especially when spread across three model-years.
On November 20th United Press International wire service reported that book values for used Edsels had decreased by as much as $400. In some newspaper markets, dealers scrambled to renegotiate newspaper advertising contracts involving the 1960 Edsel models, while others dropped the name from their dealership's advertising "slugs." Ford issued a statement that it would distribute coupons to consumers who purchased 1960 models valued at $300 to $400 towards the purchase of new Ford products to offset the decreased values. The company also issued credits to dealers
There is no real known reason why the Edsel failed. Consumer Reports cited poor workmanship. Marketing experts hold the Edsel up as a supreme example of corporate America’s failure to understand the nature of the American consumer.
That’s it for this week, till next time “Keep Cruisin”
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