1959 – Ford discontinues the Edsel

The 1958 Ford Edsel is today recalled as one of the world’s greatest flopped products. This is usually attributed to it being a bad design, but in fact the car itself was the equal of any of Ford’s other lines at the time. The true failures were of timing and marketing.

The release of the 1958 Edsel – which took place in 1957 – occurred during a general slowdown of the US economy that year, when all car sales fell. It was that much harder for a newcomer to the market to find a place. Ford had also attempted a teaser style marketing campaign, creating a mystery regarding the car’s appearance – which led to it being less recognizable than its competitors. In addition, it was competing against very well-established brand names in its class – not least among them Ford’s own Mercury range. Finally, of course, it had a dorky name.

Slightly more than two years after its initial release, the Edsel was discontinued (although production and sales of existing models continued for some months), and Ford suffered a publicity black eye and a bad earnings year from it. Ironically, many of the features of the Edsel that were derided at the time are now standard for cars of its class.

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We Didn’t Start The Fire — Billy Joel