Packard: The History of an American Luxury Classic

Packard: The History of an American Luxury Classic

Packard: The History of an American Luxury Classic

The story of the Packard automobile starts in the early 1900s, founded by James Ward Packard, his brother William Doud Packard and their partner, George Lewis Weiss in the city of Warren, Ohio. 400 Packard automobiles were built at their Packard factory from 1899 to 1903. Being a mechanical engineer, James Ward Packard believed that they could build a better horseless carriage than the Winton cars owned by Weiss, an important Winton stockholder.

From its beginning, Packard-build vehicles were perceived as highly competitive among high-priced luxury American automobiles. The company was often referred to as being one of the “Three P’s” of American motordom royalty, along with Pierce-Arrow of Buffalo, New York and Peerless of Cleveland, Ohio.

For most of its existence, Packard was guided by its President and General Manager James Alvan Macauley, who also served as President of the National Automobile Manufacturers Association.  Macauley made Packard the number one designer and producer of luxury automobiles in America, and was inducted into the Automobile Hall of Fame.

The Packard legacy stayed strong through the 30s and 40s, but by the end of World War II, even though they were in excellent financial condition, several management mistakes became visible. Postwar Packards sold well, but they had become virtually alike in styling by this time, and management had decided to direct the company more to volume middle-class models, thus concentrating on selling lower priced cars.

Management also tried to enter the taxi cab and fleet car market. These actions eventually diluted Packard’s image as a luxury brand, and they lost many buyers. Sales continued to dwindle until June 25th, 1956 when the last Packard rolled off the production line at Packard’s plant in Detroit, Michigan.

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