Edsel was a car marque created by Ford in 1957 in order to enter a bit higher layer of the market comparing to their own models, like Ford Fairlane or Ford Galaxie, but lower than their other marques, like Mercury or Lincoln. They aimed to catch up with General Motors and Chrysler and they were so sure about the concept of Edsel that they have invested a lot of money in yearlong teaser marketing campaign that called Edsel a car far superior to the competition. One of the ways of promoting the cars was The Edsel Show starring Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Louis Armstrong, Lindsay Crosby and Bob Hope. Edsel, named after one of Henry Ford sons, was called car of the future, a entirely new kind of car and the result of long and sophisticated market analysis. According to Ford there was a huge demand for such car and they were funding the promotion really heavily.
Why is it legendary?
After long awaited premiere of Edsel it turned out that the car of the future is actually... old. The body was rather old fashioned, most of the parts were shared with many different Ford models, it was rather expensive and did not offer much for the money. The sales were disappointing, to say the least - some of the dealers that were established to sell Edsel exclusively were forced to take up Mercury and Lincolns just to keep their business running.
Soon after Ford decided to split the marque into several submodels (Citation, Corsair, Pacer, Ranger, Bermuda, Villager, Roundup) with only tiny differences between them, but still they were made out of parts already used in different Ford models. After about year Ford pulled the plug and Edsel ceased to exist. In total 3 years about 110,000 cars were sold, which was lest than 50% of what was the minimum amount to break even. Of course there was an economic recession of 1957 that have influenced the sales, around that time the market for medium priced cars was shrinking drastically, but the car offering few interesting gadgets (like rolling-dome speedometer, warning lights for oil level and parking brake, the safety belts in the price of the car), but apart from that it was just overpriced Ford that appealed to... more or less no one.
The total loss on production, marketing and research for Ford Company was 350,000,000 USD, which today would be an astonishing sum of $2.8 billion dollars. Edsel is still seen as one of the worst marketing flops in history, but many today companies forget that the product comes first and the marketing later, which Ford learned the hard way.