168: Ford Introduces Edsel

On this date in 1957, the Ford Motor Company introduced its Edsel division.

Here are a few facts about one of the biggest marketing disasters in automotive history.

In 1955, Ford began developing a new intermediate car brand that would fit between the company’s upmarket Lincoln and medium-price Mercury divisions. Its main competition was General Motors’ Oldsmobile and Buick divisions. The division was named for Edsel Ford, the son of company founder Henry Ford and father of Henry Ford the Second, who was company president at the time. Henry Ford the Second and the rest of the Ford family objected to using the name Edsel. The name was decided upon at a board meeting in which Henry Ford the Second was absent.

The brand debuted with “The Edsel Show,” a television special on CBS that starred Bing Crosby. Ford had kept the Edsel models under wraps until that point only showing blurry glimpses of cars or ones covered with tarps. The cars were shipped to dealers secretly and stayed under wraps until the debut day. When the vehicles debuted, the public was not impressed. The trademark grille was thought to resemble a toilet seat or “an Oldsmobile sucking a lemon.” The push-button transmission was located in the traditional location of the horn button, so drivers trying to honk their horns would accidentally shift gears. Also, the transmission couldn’t shift out of park if it was on a hill.

It’s estimated that the Ford Motor Company lost $350 million on the Edsel division. 118,287 Edsels were built during the three-year run, less than half the number Ford needed to sell to break even on the venture.

It is estimated that fewer than 10,000 Edsels survive today. A mint-condition convertible could sell for more than $100,000.

Our question, what eventual U.S. Defense Secretary is said to have been the force behind scrapping the Edsel division?

Today is also: Immigrants’ Day in Argentina and Newspaper Carriers Day in the United States. It’s also unofficially National Wildlife Day and National Macadamia Nut Day in the United States. It’s the birthday of radio personality Paul Harvey, golfer Tom Watson and entertainer Beyonce Knowles.

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