In my last post I referred to the Edsel. The reason I brought up the Edsel is because the Edsel was a world class failure in car marketing the likes of which modern man has seldom seen. Also a reader dropped me a comment leading to this: The Best Loved Car In The World. I should warn you; it’s a link to an article in Mother Earth News by a fellow who thinks his Chevy Volt is the greatest idea since… everything. Go ahead read it but be prepared to decontaminate granola from your keyboard when you’re done. I’ll give the guy his due, he’s entitled to like his car. More power to him.
For those of us back on Earth I decided to compare the Volt with the Edsel. Why? Because the Edsel and Volt were both heavily hyped, both were supposed to “turn around” an auto maker, and both were utter and complete financial disasters. Fortunately, both have been on the market a similar amount of time too. I decided to investigate the following scientific question:
Hypothesis: The Edsel was the universal shorthand term for “catastrophic marketing disaster” for generations. The Volt, being an electric car, massively subsidized, and hyped (by at least one lone hippie) as “The Best Loved Car In The World”, should be at least cool enough to beat Edsel. Even I, the Curmudgeon, was willing to ponder that a real live electric car could beat the wheeled punchline of 1958. Is it true?”
Study design, both cars were on the open market a similar number of years. Now handy can you get? That’s how I know God likes science! Here goes:
- The Volt has been in production roughly three years. It came out in 2010 (2011 model year). It will (as far as I can tell) be continuously manufactured until the Peoples Republic of America stops making that shit. For purposes of my uncontrolled scientific experiment the Volt right now it has been on the market nearly as long as the Edsel.
- The Edsel was in production for three years. It was made in 1958, 1959, and 1960. The ghost of Henry Ford probably exploded at the expense of cutting off production after such a short run. I’ll give Ford Motor Company credit, they knew a disaster when it hit them in the balls and pulled the plug just about as fast as they could. How many modern companies cling to a sinking idea for much longer?
Study metric #1, how many people were willing to buy either of these abominations? Here goes:
- In three years there were 118,287 Edsels sold. (According to Wikipedia: “Only 118,287 Edsels were built, including 7,440 produced in Ontario, Canada. By U.S. auto industry standards, these production figures were dismal, particularly when spread across a run of three model years.“)
- In the last three years there have been 49,161 Volts sold. This includes European sales as an Opel Electra. (Also from Wikipedia.)
Study metric #2, how much harm either did either car cause to innocent taxpayers? Here goes:
- The Edsel was produced by a for profit company which lost it’s shirt and went home bruised and crying. No taxpayers were harmed in the making of this film!
- The Volt has been subsidized so much you can see the haze of tax dollars dripping off its paint job; and that’s before you get a $7,500 tax credit when you buy it. I’m pretty sure the government could air lift a Civic onto your lawn including a glovebox stuffed with cocaine and still do it cheaper than dragging consumer into a Volt.
Analysis, the Edsel dominates the Volt like a freight train hitting a hamster. Here goes:
- The Edsel during it’s short, ridiculed, disastrous, money losing run outsold the Volt by 240%.
- The Edsel cost Ford dearly but it was entirely privately financed. The Edsel cost taxpayers roughly $0.
Results, it’s not even close. From a market and financial point of view, the word “Volt” should be carved in stone tablets and preserved for all time as the worst business case in the history of the universe.
Of course, making fun of the Volt is shooting stupid fish in a small barrel using a nuclear bomb. But what am I to make of the earnest fellow who honestly thinks “The Best Loved Car In The World” can be uttered in the same universe as “Volt”?
It occurs to me that for some folks there is nothing, nothing at all, no experience or evidence whatsoever, that could convince them that the Volt isn’t just groovy man. For the guy who wrote the article, and possibly his target audience in Mother Earth News, it’s simply unquestionable. If a Volt broke into his house and raped his cat, he’d still love it. If Volts caused cancer, made your nuts fall off, and glued your sphincter permanently shut, he’d still love it.
Who could go so crazy? Certainly none of us could have an opinion immune to evidence to the contrary? Well stay tuned because I found my Curmudgeonly self slipping into such illogic. Not about a car of course, that would be ridiculous. Instead it was about the stock market. Stay tuned.