Our Zone Manager for West Texas had quite an experience. In driving from Amarillo to Lubbock he got caught in a sand storm, and had to have his car repainted.
During this recruiting process we could not contact or talk with anyone connected with a Ford product franchise. Nor could we select anyone who had any investment or involvement with a firm who had a Ford product franchise. This policy caused a real problem for me. I had signed an "Interim Franchise" with a man in Wichita Falls, Texas who was building a new building to house his Edsel dealership, and I had also signed an "Interim Franchise" with a man in Duncan Oklahoma who was enlarging his building to meet our requirements. One day I received a phone call from a friend in the Home Office who tipped me off that a Ford dealer had just left the office, with the full franchise for Edsel in both Wichita Falls, Texas and Duncan, Oklahoma. Sure enough, in a few days I was instructed to bring in the 'Interim Franchise" from both of these men where they had signed across it "Voluntarily Terminated". This was not an easy assignment, but I was successful.The introduction of the Edsel to our franchised dealers was really something. No expense was spared to put on the finest show ever. It required removing a section of the outside wall of the Statler Hotel to allow us to get the cars into their ballroom. The dinner, which was served to the dealers and their personnel, was of several courses. Then the floor show, which led to the unveiling of the cars, was performed by a group from New York's Broadway. This event was a tremendous success and set the stage for a grand announcement day show at the dealerships. Prior to conducting sales training sessions with all of our dealers' sales personnel, I had become friends with my counterpart men with General Motors and Chrysler, who also had offices in Dallas, and worked out a deal for them to lend us one of each of their line of cars in the Edsel field, and we would lend them Edsels when we had them. I then held a two-day "school" with all of our field men, and allowed them to drive and compare our competition. From this experience, we all were then really equipped to hold sales training sessions with our dealers' sales personnel.
In those days especially, a new car dealer could make full gross profit on new car sales for the first thirty to sixty days of a new model. However, it was rare if a new car dealer could receive his full thirty or sixty day allotment. Part of our franchise package was a written commitment stating the dealer would have his full thirty day allotment on hand before announcement day.
We were informed the separate plants were behind schedule and the Ranger and Pacer for our District would come from the Ford Plant in Louisville, Kentucky and the Corsair and Citation would come from the Lincoln-Mercury plant in Michigan. The Ranger and Pacer were on a Ford chassis and the Corsair and Citation were on a Mercury chassis.
The first cars shipped came to the Ford Plant on Grand Avenue in Dallas. One morning about 3:00 A.M., I received a phone call from our Service Manager, Bill Showalter, urging me to get dressed and rush down to the Ford Plant. What I saw was unbelievable. Some of the car doors were roped closed. Some bumpers were roped up. Many of the cars equipped with the air bag shocks were practically on the ground. The "gear shift" was in the center of the steering wheel and if you used reverse, the trunk lid would open. Unbelievable. We then learned the dealers were receiving cars in the same condition. We were then instructed to contact all of our dealers and ask them if they preferred to receive their allotment with these kinds of cars, or take half their allotment with the cars in standard condition. Many of our dealers were former new car dealers who had canceled their franchises thirty to sixty days earlier and had no new cars to sell for some time. By far the majority replied to ship their allotment and they would fix them. Unfortunately many could not be fixed. The condition of the cars could not be kept quiet and competition had a "field day". It cost a fortune to get the cars corrected.
One of my friends in the Home Office remarked to me, after it was apparent Edsel was not going to continue, that he brought to management's attention, based on his studies, the "badge" of success was changing. The young executives were changing from showing their success by buying a larger and current car. He noticed a sharply rising rate of motor boat purchases. There was also a rising rate of swimming pool purchases and lake lot purchases. THE CAR FOR THE YOUNG MAN ON HIS WAY UP was on its way out. Incidently, this was the time the DeSoto was dropped by Chrysler.
The author passed away on July 8, 2007 at the age of 88.
About the Author
Tom F. Sneary was Assistant District Manager, Edsel Division, Ford Motor Company,
Dallas District from January 1957 to February 1958. He was 38 years old at
the time, some seven years the youngest of the 48 District and Assistant District
Upon graduation from Central High School, Kansas City, Missouri in 1936, Tom entered the Kansas City Junior College, with the ambition of becoming a CPA. In the daytime he worked in the accounting department of the local Studebaker Distributor, Armacost Motor Company. He became a commission new car salesman in 1938 until 1942, but continued his CPA studies at night.
In March 1942 he entered the U. S. Army as a Private. He graduated from Infantry Officer Candidate School, Ft. Benning, Georgia December 1942. He served in Africa and Italy as an Infantry Platoon Leader. He received three Purple Heart Medals, two Bronze Star Medals, one Silver Star Medal, and the Combat Infantryman Badge. He was released from the Army in September 1945 as a Captain.
He completed his work on his business administration degree at Northwestern University and graduated in June 1946. He joined the Studebaker Corporation in July 1946 and became a District Sales Manager, serving in this capacity in Wichita, Kansas; Lexington, Kentucky; Louisville, Kentucky. Tom then served as Assistant Zone Manager in Cincinnati, Ohio and Chicago, Illinois until January 1957, at which time he became the Assistant District Manager, Edsel Division, Ford Motor Company, Dallas District with Bob Sanford, District Manager.
The author passed away on July 8, 2007 at the age of 88.