This week marks the 50th anniversary of the Ford Edsel, long considered the premier example of over-hyped commercial failure. New Coke has nothing on the Edsel!
The Washington Post has a fantastic article about Ford’s belly flop:
Fifty years ago today, Don Mazzella skipped out of school to see the hot new car that everybody was talking about, the hot new car that almost nobody had actually seen.
Ford Motor Co. had proclaimed it “E-Day,” and Mazzella and two buddies sneaked out of East Side High School in Newark, N.J., and hiked 13 blocks to Foley Ford so they could cast their gaze upon the much-ballyhooed new car that had been kept secret from the American public until its release that day.
It was called the Edsel.
“The line was around the block,” recalls Mazzella, now 66 and an executive in a New Jersey consulting firm. “People were coming from all over to see this car. You couldn’t see it from the street. The only way you could see it was to walk into the showroom and look behind a curtain.”
Mazzella and his truant friends waited their turn, thrilled to be there. “Back then for teenagers, cars were the be-all and end-all,” he explains. They’d read countless articles about the Edsel and seen countless ads that touted it as the car of the future. But they hadn’t seen the car. Ford kept it secret, building excitement by coyly withholding it from sight, like a strip-tease dancer.
Finally, Mazzella and his friends reached the showroom. Finally, they were permitted to peek behind the curtain. They saw a cream-colored car with a strange oval grille that looked like a big chrome O.
“We looked at it and said, ‘ What?’ ” Mazzella recalls. “It was just a blah car. I remember my friend Joe Grandi, who later became a Newark cop — he had a gruff voice, and he said, ‘ This is what we waited all this time for?’ We all felt betrayed.”
The Edsel lost about $2 billion in adjusted dollars, and now the name has become synonymous with over-hyped products that fail to deliver. Happy Birthday, Edsel!