Classic Auto Insurance: The Little Known Ford Edsel
During the 1950s, the Ford Motor Company made multiple attempts at creating a line of luxurious vehicles to compete with General Motors. While Lincoln had been their flagship luxury line to date, Ford management at the time began doing research into their largest competitor, General Motors and the various vehicle lines they offered. According to historians, Ford found that their Lincoln line was not actually competing with GM’s luxurious Cadillac brand, as they had hoped, but was instead in competition with the Oldsmobile and Buick line-up.
In hopes of narrowing the competition, Ford developed a plan to propel the Lincoln brand upmarket in order to truly compete with the Cadillac brand. To do so, Ford decided to take the well-received Lincoln Continental and turn Continental into a separate brand in the Ford product line. They also decided to add a premium/intermediate vehicle to the gap left vacant by Lincoln. This new intermediate line was called Edsel, in honor of Henry Ford’s son.
Research and development on the Edsel marquee began in 1955 under the code name “E car”, which at the time stood for experimental car. Ford built publicity and excitement before the release of the First Edsel in 1957, promising consumers and the media that the new line was vastly superior in both performance and style to the Oldsmobile and Buick models on the market at the time. The Edsel was introduced on the self-proclaimed “E-Day” in September of 1957 and was heavily promoted, including a top-rated television special called The Edsel Show.
Unfortunately, the proportions and hype were not enough to drive large sales numbers and Edsel model production would conclude after only three years. In 1958 Edsel produced four vehicle models, two hard and soft top convertible sedans and two wagons with the same convertible options. The Edsel vehicles offered buyers a number of innovative bells and whistles, including the “rolling dome” speedometer, warning lights for maintenance conditions as low oil level, parking brake engaged, and engine overheating, as well a push-button transmission shifting system which was affixed to the center of the steering wheel. In the first year of production only 63,110 Edsels were sold in the United States and an additional 4,935 units were sold in Canada, bringing the total to 67,110 of the 1958 models produced. In 1959, only the smaller two Edsel models were in production, one wagon and one sedan, and only 47, 396 units were produced and sold. Only 2,846 Edsels were produced during the line’s last year in 1960 before Ford decided to end the program. Despite the Edsel’s lack of commercial success, several of the vehicles were raced in NASCAR’s Grand National series during the late 1950s.
Historians and auto enthusiasts have many speculations about why the Edsel models were never a true success for the Ford Motor Company, and the vehicle brand has become somewhat notorious in the industry as a marketing failure. Never the less, the Edsel has a significant fan base among collectors and enthusiasts today.
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