Little Bits of History

Synonymous with Failure

Posted in History by patriciahysell on November 20, 2010

November 19, 1959: The Ford Motor Company announces the cessation of production for the entire Edsel line of cars. Henry Ford, founder of Ford Motors Co. had a son named Edsel. Edsel died on May 26, 1943 from cancer. Edsel’s son, Henry II took over the presidency of the car manufacturing venture on September 21, 1945. On September 28, 1948 he instructed the Forward Product Planning Committee to come up with a line of mid-priced cars.

The Ford Edsel

At the time, GM had Chevy, Olds, Pontiac, Buick, and Cadillac while Chrysler had Plymouth, Dodge, DeSoto, Chrysler, and Imperial. Ford had only three divisions: Ford, Mercury, and Lincoln. As people could afford better cars, they fell through the pricing differentials offered by Ford. Big cars were impressive in 1948 but design was halted during the Korean War and by the time the Edsel line debuted in 1957 economy cars were making headway in the market.

There was a huge build-up prior to the launch of this new car. “E Day” was scheduled for September 4, 1957 when the 1958 model year cars were introduced. Only certain dealerships carried the new line. The car did not receive the hoped for accolades. There was a top rated TV special, The Edsel Show, that aired on October 13, 1957 but it could not overshadow the already mounting negative press.

The Edsel name is today synonymous with the term “failure.” What went wrong? There is no one answer but several factors contributed to the mess. The pricing was not much different from the Mercury line, the size of the car was wrong, the cars were poorly built and some even arrived at dealerships with lists of missing parts attached to the steering wheel. And the steering wheel was “wrong” because the gears were activated by buttons placed in the center where the horn “should” be. Of the almost 118,000 Edsels produced in the three years of production about 6,000 remain today and have their own cult following in the specialty car market.

“Failure after long perseverance is much grander than never to have a striving good enough to be called a failure.” – George Eliot

“Only those who do nothing … make no mistakes.” – Joseph Conrad

“Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” – Confucius

“One who fears failure limits his activities. Failure is only the opportunity more intelligently to being again.” – Henry Ford

Also on this day, in 1997 the McCaughey septuplets were born.

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