It was a lesson the Auto Industry never should have forgotten. “It’s very expensive to build cars people don’t want to buy”. But there’s a big distinction between this Ford failure and this present mess we see at GM, The Edsel was Ford’s mess, and they cleaned it up without the help of U.S. the tax payers.
There’s valuable lessons to be learned from the Edsel, we spawn a new generation of consumers every 20 years, and each generation sees itself born of a new age and discounts the critical lessons of the past. It’s as if the human mind has some initial programing you need find your way around to discover the realities that lie at your feet, if only you look!
What does a Company do when they’re buiding cars no one wants? well in the case of the Edsel, Ford managed it all internally, and part of their efforts were to give buyers and incentive to stay loyal to Ford. Following is an allowance certificate and letter dated March 17, 1960. I had just turned 12 years old.
This (Government subsidy free) Certificate above was issued through a small town dealer who was also a Oldsmobile Dealer at the time if I recall correctly. The Olds of the day had a good following, and those who owned them >knew< they had purchased a car ‘a cut above’ the Chevrolet. In the day, it was a two-minute walk between dealers.
I can’t imagine what the Ford Dealer was thinking at the time. I’m sure he thought he had been loyal to Ford Motor Company and now they betray him by selling the Edsel Franchise to his competition just down the street allowing that Dealer to offer his customers a choice between a GM or a Ford made product. There was so much hype over the Edsel Brand, a whole new exciting line of cars, and don’t miss the once in a lifetime opportunity to buy a Franchise.
There’s a lot on the net to research, including the songs about how wonderful it was to be the wife of an Edsel dealer, yes, Ford seemed to know even back then that women were part of important decision making in households, and normally any man that had more than two cents at the time was married. This does suggest Ford Execs were consulting their marketing arm for advice, and many blame the down turn in the economy for the failure..
The Certificate idea may not have had the intention of betraying the Edsel dealer but in this case and other cases it did. Here Ford is offering Robert’s customer a rather significant amount of money at the time to buy their next car at the Scarff Ford Dealer just down the Street. Having some sense of what Ford was up to, he may have prudently mistaken who the sale of Edsels were made to. What would you have done?
Following are a collection of blunders, ending with the Edsel.
But there’s the ultimate ugly contest, our Edsel did well, but there’s so much more competition that you may have EVER imagined on the scale of ugly, but not likely on the scale of cost per ugly car made indexed for inflation. Thanks to new generations of consumers who don’t yet understand the dangers of allowing people in politics to manage the car business, we will eventually replace the use of the term ‘Edsel’ as the colossal mistake of our time in the car business. I still believe GM has a top contender in the Volt, as this should still be an R&D project according to marketing data about people who want to buy a car hybrid car. It may become known as the largest mistake in the car business, but those in Washinton DC will wear the blame. So few will care till their cupboard is bare, or they own something they can’t have repaired.
Poor Edsel, what did he do to deserve his name on such a car? There’s a wiki page that likley gives us a best ideal of reality, and the actual sales of the Edsel, 63,110 Edsels sold the first year how does this compare to the Chev Volt?
I’m pretty sure my next car will be a Ford, I’ll post what happens when I attempt to turn this non expiring certificate into cash.