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Packard Motor Car Company

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Although out of business today, The Packard line of automobiles was once known as some of the most prestigious on the market. The founder of the company, James Ward Packard, was an engineer by trade and began producing automobiles as early as 1899. The process started when James Packard began looking at other automobiles of the time and was soon able to make innovations that surpassed the competition. In 1899 the company that would come to be known as Packard was formed as the Ohio Automobile Company and production began immediately.

The first Packards were designed as luxury automobiles and were priced much higher than the competition. The company was successful despite their prices however, and soon developed a name for themselves for building the most reliable engines of the time. In 1902 with the aid of investors the company was renamed as The Packard Motor Car Company and soon moved its operation to Detroit, Michigan, the epicenter for automobile production.

When the newly designed Packard production plant opened in 1903 it was known as one of the most modern in the world. Packard needed that edge as well, competing against such established brandnames as Pierce-Arrow, and Peerless. One of the trademarks of the Packard Car Company at this time was that they didn't release new automobile designs annually as did most other companies. Instead the company focused on producing series models that were changed and upgraded in design as innovations were made. This practice enabled the company to organize a single assembly line that produced the cars effectively with interchangeable parts.

It wasn't until 1935 that Packard began producing its first low priced automobiles, and these weren't as well recieved as their previous designs. It was an attempt on their part however, to survive the Great Depression, which by this time had eliminated many of their competitors. The failed designs didn't hurt Packard very much however, especially with the threat of a new war on the horizon.

During the Second world war, Packards contribution cannot be denied. The company switched to producing aircraft and marine engines. By negotiating the rights from Rolls-Royce to built the Merlin engine for use in the P-51 Mustang, the company sealed its financial security for the time during the war and immediately afterward as well. Packard emerged after the war as one of the most prepared to take on the new market of car buyers that were flocking to buy their very own cars. Hard times soon followed however, and the fifties were not good to the company. In 1954 Packard merged with Studebaker but even that couldn't save the company from financial ruin. Their cars simply weren't selling and could be in large part be due to their lack of introducing models that trully resonated with the American people.

In 1958 the company released its last automobiles, badged only as Packard models, then soonafter closed the doors of their factories. The company nearly made a comeback in 1995 though, when investors bought the name and produced a high performance luxury automobile. The endeavor wasn't successful though and soonafter the investors wanted to rid themselves of the name. Today Packard is best remembered for their early model luxury cars and the reliability of their well-built engines.

More about this author: David Thackston

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