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Big Ambitions Couldnt SaveIn a 1950's bid to make their presence known with industry-leading Chevy, Ford funneled millions of dollars into launching Edsel; a new, mid-range brand aimed to win over the public with fancy new technology and innovative styling. Led by none other than Henry Ford II and legendary family lineage, the Ford Motor Company harnessed the creative and strategic chops of America's most brilliant and respected minds. Heralded as the Whiz Kids, the executives, engineers and planners set out to boost Ford's market share. Unfortunately, their efforts proved to be a vivid lesson in corporate failure.

What Should We Call It?

With no shortage of good intentions and accompanying effort, Ford dedicated a considerable wealth of talent in producing the Edsel. As it turned out, there were simply too many hands and not enough direction. They couldn't even decide on a name, in spite of public contests and upwards of 20,000 suggestions. Eventually, one harried and impatient executive declared Edsel the new brand moniker, named after Henry Ford's son. It simply wasn't a good name for a car brand, yet Ford plunged ahead.

Bells and Whistles

Marketed to "the younger executive or professional family on its way up," Ford had lofty hopes for the Edsel to fill a gap in its product line. To that end, the Edsel division produced 18 different models with 90 possible color combinations. The Edsel was also decked out in fancy gadgets like the Teletouch transmission that allowed drivers to shift with the push of a button located on the steering wheel, ergonomically designed driver controls, and self-adjusting brakes.

The hi-tech slant didn't impress buyers and the car's momentum never really got up to speed. Production problems and shoddy workmanship plagued the Edsel and enraged dealers saddled with unhappy customers. Some cars actually arrived at dealerships with a list of uninstalled parts taped to the steering wheel. Many dealerships closed down altogether after the fiasco of setting up shop to welcome "an entirely new" kind of car.

Bad Timing and Bizarre Style

Ford launched an ambitious and expensive, year-long marketing campaign ahead of the Edsel unveiling, teasing the public with hints of technological wonders and head-turning style. Caught up in their own party, however, Ford's executives failed to see the proverbial forest for the trees. The country was sliding into an economic recession in early 1958 and most people were in no position to head out and buy a new car. The Edsel's ungainly styling didn't help matters, with a yawning vertical "mouth" on the grill and an overall lumbering look.

In Conclusion

Indeed, the Edsel brand failed on multiple levels, from the production line to the showroom floor, and only 64,000 cars were sold in its first year. With a smarter advertising campaign and focused vision, we would likely still see the Edsel on the road today.

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