The Randy Edsel: A Product Synonymous With Failure

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Some products have simply become synonymous with failure: the Sony Betamax; the McDonald's Arch Delux; New Coke. These were all products that were hailed as revolutionary by their respective companies, introduced to much fanfare, and promptly proceeded to disappoint, disenchant, and distinguish themselves by their utter failure to live up to any of the expectations heaped upon them. Such is the case with the Randy Edsel.

The Randy Edsel was originally conceived in 1957 but had been shrouded in irrelevance during its experimental prototype development by researchers at Syracuse University and the University of Connecticut until it was finally unveiled among great anticipation at the University of Maryland in 2011. At the time of its introduction, the Edsel was hailed by automakers as the next generation car, built on entirely new fundamentals and with brand new styling. Built to replace its reliable yet bulky predecessor, the Ford Friedgen, its supporters expected the new model to surpass shiny new competitor models such as the Dodge Swinney and the classic bestseller VT Beamer.

Almost from the start, though, the Randy Edsel was doomed to failure. For starters, the pricing was too high. Because it debuted in the midst of a recession, the $2 million per year price tag was simply too much for a model whose best spec was an 8-4 Big East championship and blowout loss in the Fiesta Bowl. Critics immediately pointed out that cheaper, newer, more exciting models such as the the Franklin prototype (which the University of Maryland had been developing in the mid-2000s as a prospective successor to the Friedgen) were ready to be put into production. Yet, Maryland car makers decided to scrap those plans and cut funding to other lines in order to push the Edsel. Meanwhile, the Franklin engineering plans were purchased by a Tennessee manufacturer and immediately put into production where the shiny new couple surpassed the Edsel in both value and performance.

The Randy Edsel's debut in College Park on Labor Day 2011 met with mixed reviews. The new styling was...different. Built to play to the company's primary market, the paint job looked as if someone puked a Maryland state flag all over the hood. State pride is one thing, but who wants to drive a car that looks like a crash test dummy? At best, the new look got people talking. At worst, it made prospective buyers want to poke sharp objects into their retinas. The multitude of vivid colors and distorted shapes were simply too much too soon, even for a visual market shifting away from traditional stripes and lettering to shiny new colors and styles.

The initial performance reviews were also mixed. Sure, the Randy Edsel looked decent enough beating out a broke down Holden Hurricane in a driving comparison, but the handling faltered and wide receivers began dropping passes when tested against better competition. Prone to false starts, stalling, and missed tackles, what was billed to be an improved offensive performance turned into unmitigated disaster in the midst of its first few months on the lots. Drivers began flocking in droves from College Park to find better brands in other conferences. What few fans the brand had before the Edsel was introduced thumbed their noses in disgust as they fled from Byrd Stadium in a state of despair. Understandably, people felt misled.

In the end, the Edsel was a colossal failure both for Randy and for fans of the University of Maryland football program. Once marketed by its primary engineer as "my dream car," the purported dream has become a nightmare. The turtle-like Edsel was simply never able to compete in terms of ACCelleration, styling, or sheer popularity with its primary competitors. It has been entirely unreliable, following up solid showings on the road with narrow wins at home against FCS teams. In other words, everything that the Randy Edsel was billed to be---innovative, competitive, reliable, and fun---it has been the exact opposite.

Today, the Randy Edsel has joined the ranks of the Betamax, the Arch Deluxe, and New Coke as a product synonymous with failure. It represents unmet expectations, unreliability, and ugliness both in styling and performance. Now, folks all around the country are wary of the Randy Edsel. And really, why shouldn't they be? The lesson here is simple: never buy an Edsel when you could have had a Holgorsen.

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