Ford in the 1950s was nothing if not ambitious. Unfortunately, this ambition gave birth to the Edsel, whose name became synonymous with abject corporate failure after the nascent brand was killed in 1959. The Edsel’s short history makes a fascinating cautionary tale for anyone in business–not just the car industry.
Ford dubbed Sept. 4, 1957, the day the Edsel debuted, as “E-Day” and spent the year leading up to it pushing a teaser campaign for the new brand and the new car. At launch, Ford made 18 different versions of the Edsel available — an unheard-of move at a time when most car companies offered just a few models. The Edsel was supposed to be everything American car buyers wanted; however, it was a terrible flop.
The Edsel never gained popularity with contemporary American car buyers and sold poorly. The Ford Motor Company lost $250 million on the Edsel’s development, manufacturing, and marketing. The very name “Edsel” became a popular symbol for a commercial failure.
Here’s the vintage automobile advertisement for the 1958 Edsel models (please click on the images to view them larger).