Founded as the Ohio Automobile Company by brothers James Ward and William Dowd Packard in Warren (Ohio). Deciding not to compete at the lower mass-produced end of the market being then dominated by Henry Ford, the company instead concentrated on the manufacture of more up-market cars – by way of comparison a Model T was selling for $440, while the Packard’s had a starting price of $2,600! Appealing to the social elite, for a time they were the transport of choice for many US and foreign dignitaries. Financially rescued by a happy Packard owner (and a wealthy one at that), one Henry Bourne Joy, the company would move to Detroit where James would be appointed president, and Joy General Manager (and later Chairman of the Board).
Continued to build elite vehicles for the extremely wealthy throughout the 1920’s and 30’s, regarded as a cut above the GM Cadillac’s of the day. Rode out the depression by manufacturing slightly less expensive cars, and while competitors Peerless, Marmon, Ruxton, Stearns-Kinght, Pierce Arrow and the once mighty Duesenberg would go into receivership, Packard managed to (just) survive – many believed due to the fact that they used a single production line.
The continued economic decline saw Packard offer it’s first sub $1000 car in 1935, the “Packard 120” – a car that would become very popular and ensure the survival of the company – if only for a time. Despite suffering a chronic shortage of raw materials, the company beat rivals Cadillac, Lincoln and Chrysler to release the first new post war luxury-car bodystyle in 1948. The 1950’s were known as an era of economic rationalisation, Nash president George Mason courting Packard as a suitable candidate for merger.
Packard were reluctant to go down that route, and Nash would turn to Hudson
to form American Motors Corporation (AMC) in 1954. The Packard directors soon realised they too needed to merger if they were to survive, however the number of independents was fast dwindling. A merger was conceived with Studebaker
, which was ratified on October 1, 1954, and formed the Studebaker-Packard Corporation. A lack of due diligence performed by the Packard directors would leave the company exposed, Studebaker
in more dire straits than anyone imagined. The slow demise of the joint companies followed, the Packard name being dropped for a time only to be re-birthed when consumers refused to buy unbranded “Clipper’s”. Studebaker
pulled the Packard nameplate from the marketplace in 1959 to focus instead on its compact Lark.