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Why Was Edsel Such a Failure?

The reputation of Edsel cars isn't the most sterling. In fact, it's known among car companies as a large-scale failure, but it really had nothing to do with the car itself, but more with the time it was launched. It was a case of over-ambition and overconfidence. It simply wasn't good timing, but the story provides a learning lesson for present-day car companies that can't go unheeded.

How did Edsel begin?

Edsel got its start after executives at Ford felt there was a hole in the intermediate car division, though their market research may have led them astray. Convinced that Lincoln was competing with Oldsmobile, which left room for another car line in order for Lincoln to move up in the world, the Edsel was born. Named for Henry Ford's son, the car launched in 1957 after much publicity and advertising. Honestly, it seemed the somewhat overpriced car was doomed from the get-go, and buyers weren't impressed with the vehicle or the car's price, which didn't fit in where the car belonged among its competitors, leaving it behind. For these reasons, despite the company's push to sell the car, it wasn't a success.

What were the Edsel's features?

The Edsel wasn't really the brand new car that people were hoping for. In fact, it was a slightly restyled and rebadged Ford. The features of the Edsel included a dashboard with a rolling dome speedometer, which was considered fairly unique at the time. The Edsel offered automatic lubrication and self-adjusting brakes, which were new features. The interior of the Edsel was built for comfort, with ergonomic features, and the car had another distinct design feature; a vertical grille. The company thought this would be a hit, but consumers weren't really that engaged with the grille, as it was oversized in order to keep the engine cool.

What were the Edsel models available?

There wasn't just one model of Edsel to come rolling off the assembly line. In fact, the brand put out four different models of the vehicle.

  • The Ranger was the least expensive Edsel model, starting at $2400. You could buy a hardtop or convertible Ranger, or you could opt for a wagon-style model.
  • A step up from the Ranger, the Pacer started at roughly $2700 and like the Ranger, came in hardtop or convertible options. The Pacer was a smaller model, and also came in a wagon design. By the end of the Edsel's production run, the Pacer and Ranger were all that was left.
  • The Corsair started at $3300, and only came in hardtop designs. You could purchase a two-door or four-door Corsair model
  • The most expensive Edsel was the Citation, starting at $3500. This model was offered as a hardtop or a convertible design.

What happened to the Edsel?

The final production year for the Edsel was 1960. There was supposed to be another model launching that same year, called the Comet. Instead of scrapping the idea, the car was rebranded and sold under the Lincoln-Mercury umbrella, becoming quite a success instantly. The Ford company lost over $350 million on the Edsel fiasco, and even gave some buyers coupons towards another Ford car who had purchased 1959 or 1960 Edsel vehicles. Today, the car is considered a collectible for those who treasure vintage automobiles. There are less than 10,000 cars out there today, and these may command over $100,000 at auction.