Monday, January 3, 2011

Kevin Anderson Makes All His Constituents Angry While Creating a Bizarre Edsall/Edsel Comparison

Give new Maryland A.D. credit -- he’s even handed when it comes to pissing off Terps’ fans and alums.

Anderson infuriated the supporters of 2010 ACC Coach of the Year Ralph Friedgen by promising him a final year in 2011 only to force him out of his job a week later.

This move delighted others in Terp Nation as this “strategic business decision” was sure to produce the shiny brand new BCS coach they coveted. However, that group became equally incensed yesterday when Anderson hired UConn coach Randy Edsall.

Nice exacta.

Now to make matters worse, the inevitable “Edsel” comparisons will begin and the story line, while it obviously has not yet played out, already show some disturbing similarities.

For those of you who aren’t old as dirt, you need to know that the ill-fated Edsel was manufactured by the Ford Motor Company during the 1958, 1959, and 1960 model years. The Edsel never gained popularity and sold poorly. Consequently, Ford lost millions of dollars on the Edsel's development, manufacture, and marketing. The name "Edsel" has since become synonymous with failure.

And yet it all started out so promising…

In the early 1950s, Ford became a publicly traded company and was no longer entirely owned by the Henry Ford family. Management now had more flexibility to create models to specifically compete in the marketplace with the wide variety of cars produced by General Motors.

Sitting on a pot of money from the success of the Ford Thunderbird, the brain trust at Ford set out to create a slot in the intermediate market when they moved Lincoln “upmarket.” R&D on the new car began in 1955 under the name “E-car,” in honor of Henry Ford’s kid Edsel B. Ford.

The Edsel was introduced amid considerable fanfare on something Ford touted as "E Day." The car was also promoted by a top-rated television special, The Edsel Show, but those efforts were not enough to counter the adverse public reaction to the car's styling.

For months, Ford had been circulating rumors that led people to expect an entirely new kind of car, when in reality, the Edsel shared its engineering and bodywork with other Ford models. Oops.

(Is this starting to sound familiar?)

To its credit, the Edsel offered several innovative features, but the car sold poorly for a variety of reasons. Ford pulled the plug in November of 1959 at a cost of $350 million lost.

Historians have advanced several theories in an effort to explain the Edsel's failure – because tha’s what historians do! Consumer Reports has alleged that poor workmanship was the Edsel's chief problem. Marketing experts hold the Edsel up as a supreme example of the corporate culture’s failure to understand American consumers. Business analysts cite the weak internal support for the product inside Ford’s executive offices.

According to Edsel scholar Jan Deutsch, the Edsel was "the wrong car at the wrong time," prompting one Ford exec to say "The aim was right, but the target moved"

A part of this long-running debate is the role the name “Edsel” played in the car’s demise. Naming the vehicle after Edsel Ford was proposed early on. However, the Ford family strongly opposed this. Henry Ford II declared that he didn't want his father's good name spinning around on thousands of hubcaps. Ford also ran internal studies, hired any number of consultants and experts and eventually ended up with an advertising firm that suggested 6,000 possibilities.

Ford was not amused, prompting one exec to say the firm had been hired to develop a name, not 6,000 names. Good one, you gotta admit.

Marketing surveys later found the name was thought to sound like the name of a tractor (Edson) and that several consumer studies showed that people associated the name "Edsel" with "weasel" and "dead cell" as in dead battery.

The Edsel is also remembered for its trademark "horsecollar" or toilet seat grille, which was quite distinct from other cars of that time period. A widely circulated insult at the time was that the Edsel “looked like an Oldsmobile sucking on a lemon."

Here’s to hoping history doesn’t repeat itself.

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