Wednesday, January 17, 2018

1893 The 21st Century Edsel

1893  The 21st Century Edsel
Driving right off the page
The biggest blunder in automotive history is about to be superseded. When Ford Motor planned the Edsel in the 1950s, the plan made sense. They needed more brands to compete with GM and Chrysler.  But by the time the car was produced, it was little more than a laughing stock and a mighty expensive one.

When production shut down the company had lost what would be billions in today’s money.

Why did it fail?  Well, it wasn’t a bad car. Oh, sure, it was ugly.  Tom McCahill, a leading auto journalist of the era said it most succinctly.  He wrote that it “...looks like an Oldsmobile sucking a lemon.”

Ford put on a first magnitude marketing circus in an era when magnitude 3 would have sufficed and maybe even saved face.  The car was a sales disaster.  To its credit, the company manned up and quickly euthanized the poor thing.

But the melody lingers on, though not for long.

The next big Disaster in a Tin Dress is the self driving car.  The technology is progressing nicely.  So far, the tests are ho-hum, but that’s to be expected. Oh, there are stalls and crashes and such, but that’s why they do tests -- to see what works and what doesn’t.

Every manufacturer is on this bandwagon.  They’re all saying self-driving cars will

--reduce accidents and save lives.
--keep traffic moving in predictable and steady flows, thus speeding trips.
--allow the people formerly known as “drivers” free to text, telephone, watch movies or read the paper, have actual conversations with fellow passengers and nap.

Paradise on four wheels.

But the fact is that once this idea is perfected (if that day ever comes) it will mean 15 or 20 cars will be left on the lot for every two that are sold.  It’s not going to work.  No machine maker in Detroit or Tokyo or Juarez or Ontario is going to convince American drivers to take their hands off the wheel or their foot off the gas pedal.

Special tip for potential buyers of the Tesla, which is a brilliant and beautiful tribute to the art of auto design.  There’s no question all-electric and hybrid and hydrogen-fueled cars are here to stay.  But Tesla is a soap bubble blown up by a boy genius with his heart and his money in the right place.

If you have the money, buy one of these and put it up on blocks.  They’re going to be more valuable when production stops, which eventually it will, than they are today.  It’s a win-win situation.  You get bragging rights now and a good return on your investment later.

-Cheers for the shopping channels QVC, HSN and JTV which have at last started using some plus size models and show hosts and even some with gray hair.
-I love wandering around Altoona PA because next to most of the fellas I meet or see there, I look thin.
-And speaking of plus size women and men, let’s hear it for Oprah, the kind of take-no-prisoners but otherwise relatively normal president we need to undo the current damage.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2018

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