The Ford Edsel
Car names are not simply pulled out of a hat. A great deal of research usually goes into selecting the optimal name, with panels discussing various options and market research organisations testing public reactions. This process was adopted as usual in 1955 when a new division was set up; but all this hard effort went into the waste paper basket. The powers that be decided that the new car should be named after Edsel, the son of Henry Ford.
Was this a good name to pick?
This was perhaps not the most popular of choices. It was widely believed that Edsel, who had died whilst still quite a young man, had been harried into his grave by his domineering and bullying father; who at the time was also deceased. This was not a good start for the proposed masterpiece.
Was it attractive?
By modern-day standards the car, which was designed by a gentleman called Roy Brown, was hideous but by the standards of the day it was quite passable; or at least the initial clay model was. Unfortunately too many cooks really do spoil the broth and too many Ford executives and bean counters were allowed to make their own adjustments here and there until the car was starting to look somewhat ridiculous.
Was the design cutting-edge?
It didn't help that it was advertised as being an amazing, innovating leap forward in car design. It wasn't. The grill was compared to a horsecollar but the rest of the car was pretty much the same as every other over chromed, huge engined, rust inviting heap. There were a few new gadgets of course, including the gear selector on the steering wheel operated by pushing buttons, and a speedometer with a flashing light to warn when a preselected speed was exceeded, but otherwise there was little to differentiate it from all the competitors.
Was it popular?
Despite this the reaction of the motoring press was generally very favourable; the engine power (there were two V8 choices, of 5.9 L and 6.7 L respectively) and the vertical grill which was so widely ridiculed by ordinary motorists were both praised lavishly. Despite a desperate attempt to improve the appearance by making the grill more horizontal, the car was pretty much ignored by the buying public, and sales figures were dismal.
Was it a success?
Projected sales in excess of 200,000 cars per year metamorphosed into a total of 45,000 over two years; figures which made the project lose a small fortune. This meant the end was near. In 1959, after just two years in production, the Edsel, like the poor young man it was named after, was finally laid to rest.