The US automotive industry was so large that manufacturers not only had a plethora of models from which to choose, but also divisions. Research had revealed Ford's Lincoln was not competing with Cadillac as intended, but consumers were instead comparing it to the Oldsmobile
of the day. Ford was committed to ensuring the Lincoln stayed as the flagship make, and so a decision was made to introduce a suitable competitor for the Oldsmobile
. Dubbed the “E Car” (experimental car), the new division set about creating an advanced and highly desirable car that would be readily identifiable and individualistic.
Given that Mercury were already sharing the bodies and many components from the Lincoln range, it was important that the E-Car be new from the ground up, rather than be a concoction of parts cobbled together from existing Ford models. The hype surrounding the launch of the Edsel was unprecedented for the time, the four models including both 2 and four door hardtops, while the Pacer was available as a convertible.
Sales never reached anywhere near expectation, and for many years the word Edsel conjured negative images of the automotive industry much like Titanic had done for the shipping industry. The reasons for the spectacular failure of the new division were many and varied. The marketing campaign had led consumers to believe the Edsel was new from the ground up, but it was anything but new and borrowed heavily from the parts bins of other Ford divisions.
The original decision to market the car via its own dealer network didn’t help, nor did a pricing structure that would see it compete with others from the Ford stable rather than competitive manufacturers. But there is a more simple explanation that many believe to be more accurate, that the Edsel was simply too big for the time – as other manufacturers made their cars more compact the Edsel harked back to the early 1950’s era of bigger is best. It wasn’t.
Also see: The History of Edsel
| The Edsel Ford Story (USA Edition)