Smith Motor Company


To: All Smith Motor Company employees
From: J.P. Smith, President
Date: March 12, 1958

Hopefully we have solved the problem which allowed the general public to view our last online memo. If not, we will be hiring some new employees in our computer department .

As you all know, we have been experiencing a great deal of difficulty in selling the new Edsel automobiles to the public. I am constantly being asked by you, the employees of Smith Motors and others, why that is, given all the publicity and build-up by the Ford Motor Company. In this online employee memo I will address what I feel are the major reasons that we are struggling at this time to sell the Edsel

The first of our problems is the general downturn in the economy which began back in August 1957, just as we were beginning the build-up for the Edsel. We now know that all auto sales are at their lowest point in 6 years! In fact auto sales are down 44% in 1958 compared to 1957. In 1954, when the decision was made to produce the Edsel, it looked as though auto sales in the medium-priced field would continue to rise, but as we now know, the economy has caused a rise in the purchase of smaller cars, such as the Rambler, which is outselling our Edsels 3 to 1. President Eisenhower and Congress seem to be getting the economy under control, and it is predicted that the current recession will only last a month or two more. Ford is taking notice and offering the 59's with smaller engines that are more thrifty and this should help sell the 59 models to the public. In addition to this recession is the fact that the Russians announced that they have developed a ballistic missile, launched the Sputniks and put Laika the space dog into orbit. No wonder Americans are depressed and in no mood to buy a new car!

Secondly, when we rolled out the Edsels in September, we immediately were selling against the year end sell-off of all of our competitors, including Ford dealers. With the economy, discounts were larger than usual. We were promised a car that would sell for just under the highest priced competitor and just above the lowest priced models. But customers were finding that, with year-end incentives, a 1957 Ford Fairlane could be bought for $1876, well equipped. A stripped down Ranger 4-door sedan starts at $2519, a difference of $640, not the $220 difference mentioned in Ford's advance publicity. A comparably equipped Chevrolet is $1880 and a Plymouth, $2195. Ford allowed these bargain prices on Ford and Mercury cars because they are also overstocked in this economy. In other words, we didn't have the price advantages that were promised when we signed on to sell the Edsel. However, now everyone is selling 1958 cars and we are better off than we were when selling against the prior year's offerings.

Thirdly, as those of you in the service department know, the quality of the new Edsels has been a problem. One reason is that the Pacer and Rangers are built at Ford plants, while the Citations and Corsairs are built at the Mercury plants. As an Edsel comes down the line, the assembly worker sees the Edsel as a nuisance, requiring more work, different parts, and generally slowing down their pace. We have found some instances of outright sabotage, with lugnuts hidden in door panels to cause a rattle.Because everything is new, extra parts are not available. Ford has run out of many parts and has shipped some cars to dealers with repair instructions attached, even though we can't get the parts to fix them if they don't have them in the first place! In short, we have had to cannibalize cars to keep the ones on the lot in sales condition, and therefore have a "back lot" of unsellable cars at the moment. This problem is slowly getting better as Ford gets better geared up to produce the Edsel.

Next I would like to comment on the Edsel's styling. I know that you are as tired as I am of the jokes referring to the grille as a horsecollar, toilet seat, or worse, part of the female anatomy. If I hear one more person say that Edsel looks like an Olds sucking a lemon, or a Mercury pushing a toilet seat, I'll probably punch him in the nose! But the fact of the matter is, Ford meant to make the Edsel different. All other cars have a horizontal grille, Edsel's is vertical. Others have vertical fins, Edsel's rear is flat and finless with handsome gull-wing taillights. Perhaps Edsel is too different for some buyers, but we have to do our job and sell the "newness", such as Teletouch drive, Dial-temp controls, warning lights, trunk release and others. Personally, I think that the looks of the car are becoming a scapegoat for its slow sales, and I predict that in 30 or 40 years it will be one of the few cars which is immediately recognizable and hailed as "before it's time".

Another factor is the huge publicity build-up which preceded the car's introduction. By the time E-day rolled around, I think that people were surprised to see that Edsel had four tires and a steering wheel like other cars. I'm not sure what they were expecting, but maybe they were just tired of reading and hearing about it. Too much hype, I think... from the Edsel Show to the pony give-away people were pounded with the name Edsel for months. ( Speaking of the pony, I, for one was glad to see that little beast go...he cost us a fortune to keep up).

And lastly...that name! Why couldn't they have called it something else? Sure, many cars are named for men, like Ford, Olds, and Chrysler, but Edsel Ford is not a name well-known to the general public. Most people think of "pretzel; or "weasel" when they hear the word Edsel! I have heard that in surveys, the names Citation, Corsair, Pacer and Ranger were most popular with the public, but instead of calling the line by one of those, it was decided to name it Edsel, and use these as series names. Undoubtedly a big mistake, but an understandable one, since it helped Edsel management to "kiss up " to the Fords.

Well, fellows, we have our work cut out for us, but we must persevere and have faith that the 1959 models will be better received. By 1960, Ford should have us a car that the public will really go for, and my information is that they are doing just that as they design the 60 models now. Thank you for your hard work during the last few trying months. Certainly, better days are ahead for the Edsel.

J.P. Smith

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