Packard was started in 1899 by the brothers James and William Packard, and was considered the elite in luxury automobiles through the 1920’s. The business was originally named the Ohio Automobile Company, but in 1902 was renamed the Packard Motor Car Company when the brothers received new investors. Ford was producing cars in the price range of $440, but Packard was targeting the higher end market with $2800 models. Many Royalty and heads of state were purchasing these models.
Packard roughed it out through the Great Depression, when most luxury automobile companies such as Duesenberg and Pierce-Arrow failed. During the beginning of the Great Depression, Packard targeted their models to even higher status than they previously had, since their competition was dwindling. Soon, management realized they needed to target a lower priced market, so they released junior models of their high priced senior models, and built a new manufacturing facility for these. Where the senior line was still mostly hand built, the junior line was built using an assembly line, and outsold the senior line 10 to 1.
In 1937, Packard released its first 6 cylinder engine model, the Packard 110. This seemed like a perfect time with the depression, but it actually hurt the reputation of Packard. The 6 cylinder model, along with the junior line of automobiles, was eroding the “elite” status of Packard. After World War II, Packard suffered from styles that did not go over well with the public, and could not capitalize on the booming market after the war. Nash Motors approached Packard with talks of merging, but Packard held out. Nash eventually merged with Hudson in 1954 to create AMC (Amercan Motors Corporation ).
Soon after the Nash and Hudson merger, Packard realized they needed to do the same, and purchased Studebaker , creating Studebaker-Packard Corporation. Packard was hoping the increased amount of dealers would help sell Packard’s, but they soon found out that Studebaker was having some rough financial issues. Packard’s sales would be up again in 1955 thanks to it’s first V8 engine that year, but engineering was disastrous that year. Hundreds of autos had to be repaired at the dealership BEFORE they could be sold that year, making 1956 one of the worst years in sales ever for Packard. Sales would continue to go downhill, and Packard dealers were closing around the country. The writing was on the wall for the end of Packard, and the last year of production was 1958.