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(1) 2 »

The Sudden End of the Detroit Packards
#1
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Dave Brownell
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I have just finished reading James Ward's 1995 text The Fall of the Packard Motor Car Company (Stanford University Press). I understand that several renowned business schools have used this as their adjunct text in their MBA programs of "what not to do" in running a business.

Prior to reading this, I was content to place most of the blame on James Nance. But after reading, I realize that he might have been more a central figure in a collision of events and trends that include the Korean War, the economic situation in the U.S., Fords and Chevys being dumped on the market, lack of accounting practices and a whole series of supplier problems that hampered smooth production of 55-56 models. What's a CEO to do when the new senior Packards cannot be finished because the manufacturer of the die-cast grilles is two weeks late in delivering? To make things worse, many of the dual-dealers didn't have a single car to display or demonstrate but did have a lot full of last year's 1955s.

I suppose to capture a more recent feeling of those times is to ask if you'd still want to buy one of those left-over 2011 SAABs that might still be lurking at a former dealer? A good but different car, but are you willing to gamble? Shades of the summer of 1956 when tens of thousands of long-time Packard workers were shown the door in a down economy. My condolences.

Posted on: 2014/1/23 20:15
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Re: The Sudden End of the Detroit Packards
#2
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Craig the Clipper Man
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Very well put, Dave. I am of the belief that Nance honestly wanted to do the right thing by Packard, as evident in his comments regarding styling, advertising, and, sadly, mergers. I don't believe that it would have made a difference as far as the future of the company was concerned. And remember, Nance did not run Packard all by himself -- he had to contend with his board of directors, union bosses, suppliers, advertising agencies, dealers ...

Your Saab analogy is spot-on. By 1955, while Ford and General Motors appeared to be changing model styling each year, glutting the market with low-priced varieties being pushed in newspapers, magazines, and television; Packard and the other orphans were struggling to get existing models sold. The customer had to see the writing on the wall. Ultimately, the fate of an industry such as an automobile manufacturer depends upon the profit margin between operating costs and unit sales. Just like that poor lonely 2011 Saab languishing in a dealer's lot, the similarities would be obvious for car buyers in 1955-56 as they considered Packards, Hudsons, and Kaisers.

You know that feeling you have when you walk into a store in its last days? Moving slowly down aisles with shelves nearly bare of merchandise. Hearing the sound of your footsteps in what would otherwise be silence. It is the feeling of invading someone's personal space, of disturbing a private bereavement.

Blaming everything on James Nance is too simplistic for words.

Posted on: 2014/1/23 20:51
You can make a lot of really neat things from the parts left over after you rebuild your engine ...
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Re: The Sudden End of the Detroit Packards
#3
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Cli55er
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I bought a Hummer H2 (used), when they were on their last few months. I did not know this at the time.

the kicker was when the only remaining dealer, 55 miles away, closed. then they moved me to a Cadillac dealer for service. then that dealer closed.

the Hummer said bye bye after that.

Posted on: 2014/1/23 21:04
1937 Packard 138-CD Deluxe Touring Limousine
Maroon/Black 1090-1021
[url=http://packardinfo.com/xoops/html/modules/registry/View.php?ID=232]1955 Packard
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Re: The Sudden End of the Detroit Packards
#4
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Roger Anderson
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The SAAB analogy might not be entirely apropos...

Pardon the slight aside, but as a SAAB owner for over 40 years (since August 1971) I'm concerned that the correct facts are out there... SAAB 9-3s have been rolling off the lines in Trollhattan for over a month, are currently for sale in Sweden and Holland, and will additionally be in full production for the Chinese market in a new factory there later this year, utilizing the current 9-3SS body/chassis with some updates, and will be released by SAAB/NEVS (National Electric Vehicle Sweden, a Swedish/Japanese/Chinese consortium with expertise in new battery technologies) as a full-electric/gas car ala Chevy Volt in about a year, with a completely new car/chassis to be released in 2015/6. The local Scandinavian/Euro and Chinese markets are targeted initially, other markets subsequently. Don't count SAAB out, the new electric vehicles will be ground-breaking in the cutting-edge tradition of SAAB.

(Svenska Aeroplan AB)... SAAB: always capitalized, like BMW.

BTW SAAB re-sale prices have held steady, and not heavily discounted. Some good deals on 2011s a year ago, but not now.

For details consult: http://www.saabsunited.com

Posted on: 2014/1/24 14:32
56 Clipper Deluxe survivor
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Re: The Sudden End of the Detroit Packards
#5
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bkazmer
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I would say the 2011 SAAB and H2 Hummer were both "Packardbakers" - an Opel in one case and a Chevy in the other

Posted on: 2014/1/24 14:56
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Re: The Sudden End of the Detroit Packards
#6
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Tim Cole
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I bought the Ward book, read it, and found it so dreadful I threw it in the trash. It served its purpose - royalties.

That business schools would consider it worthy says more about the decline of education than the Packard Motorcar Company.

I agree with Turnquist that the stock market crash ushered in a black swan event for companies like Packard the same way JFK's hatless hairstyle was the end of haberdashery. Sometimes the world changes in ways reasonable men cannot be expected to anticipate.

Packard's financial condition peaked in 1929. They did a pretty good job hanging on. They paid their bills, paid off the creditors, and closed without a bailout.

The Ward book never mentions how precarious Cadillac's position was in 1933-35. All it does is talk nonsense about Harley Earl with a dash of religious quackery thrown in for commercial appeal.

Posted on: 2014/1/24 17:41
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Re: The Sudden End of the Detroit Packards
#7
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su8overdrive
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Amen, Cardinal Cole. Yours above well sums it. If some fellow at the University of Tennessee.... wants to fill his tenure writing yet another breathless postmortem rehash of the obvious, apparently there's a cottage industry doing that instead of um, uh, b u i l d i n g things.

There's a glut of MBAs, none of whom make pies, only re-slice the existing.

Enough with these what ifs. While we sat around so enthralled, the very real Packard factory gradually became useless even for Starbucks, skateboarders, warehousing, logistics companies and restuarants.

Lotta early retirement talent visits this site. Perhaps
some of you might launch another reproduction rubber company
so Lynn Steele stops taking us for granted and to the cleaners.
Do something, a n y t h i n g productive other than deep sea diving to rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic.

Are there any of us here gathered who spend more time on
our cars than playing with computers?

Meanwhile, no one addressed any of my questions raised
on the Packard Proving Grounds Certificate thread of a week or two ago, which need vetted fact, not conjecture, the former something in as short supply as NOS Carter WDO carburetors. Here again:

"Meanwhile, tho' it's been over a year, we still await any SAE or other papers contrasting Packard's Saf-t-fleX IFS with the GM style used in the 1941-47 Clippers and beyond, and beginning in the R-R Silver Cloud/Bentley S-Series autumn, 1955. We know both are good. But it'd be interesting to see some hard engineering data, a report from a then current "Automotive Industries," something conclusive.

Or engineering papers comparing the four-main-bearing 473-ci Packard Twelve with the seven-main-bearing Pierce 462-ci V-12. We know the Packard had a more modern chassis, but what of the engines?

How about engineering papers --not buff hearsay or press releases -- from the day contrasting the 384-ci Chrysler Imperial, Packard and Pierce nine-main-bearing senior eights, which shared identical bore/stroke?

Or comparing the concurrent Packard with the excellent 1927-33 Stutz?

Most of us here gathered own Packards. We're sold. But let's not live in a vacuum or fantasyland. And that includes each and every Packard Twelve driven

" 2 5 0 "

miles before delivery. So that means the 384-ci eights were only driven, what, 185 miles?"

"Gentlemen" is a relative term, and used as marketing in
Packard's heyday. To see another gentleman in the auto
industry and another opportunity Packard handed to Cadillac on a silver platter, Google: Nicholas Dreystadt and GM, Cadillacs and African-Americans

Posted on: 2014/1/24 18:52
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Re: The Sudden End of the Detroit Packards
#8
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Dave Brownell
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It might have been more appropriate to compare the demise of the Detroit Packards with Plymouth, Pontiac, Saturn and Oldsmobile, rather than SAAB. But the same uncertainty that was going around with East Grand and Conner Packard employees was evident in the quiet factory in Trollhatten, waiting for a Chinese White Knight to come in and rescue a fine brand.

The rapidity of Packard's closing down their Detroit operations was shocking for me. Thousands of jobs suddenly gone, troves of parts and records destroyed and still 1,700 new cars (mine included) waiting to be shipped to dealers who dreaded what the next step might be. All while the other independents were desperately looking for sales just as GM and Ford were dealing with their own sales downturns by dumping their cars. Thank goodness for Ford taking in many loyal, quality workers from Packard. Those, like Bob Aller, who welcomed any port in a storm, looked forward to furthering their careers with the new Edsel brand, only to watch it crash while Henry II blamed James Nance for a second failure.

The personalities of Nance, GM's Charlie Wilson, George Romney and Robert McNamara all played their parts, too. As far as business schools, I would hope that the lesson of checking the books of a potential purchase like Studebaker is stressed with the new MBAs. Without that millstone, we might have seen a few more years of big Packards coming out of Detroit.

Posted on: 2014/1/24 18:53
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Re: The Sudden End of the Detroit Packards
#9
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RogerDetroit
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Posted on: 2014/1/24 20:33
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1941 Model 160 Convertible Sedan
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Re: The Sudden End of the Detroit Packards
#10
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Allen Kahl
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I realize that a lot of you have more knowledge than I about this subject and that nothing we say or do is going to change
the fact that Packard is gone, however the subject is always
ripe for honest debate, much like the debate in the
Richard III society. With that I would like to propose something. Maybe you sports fans can relate to this. There a program on TV called "5 reasons why You can't blame.........".
So here goes.

'5 reasons why you can't blame Jim Nance for the fall of Packard'

The death of George Mason:
George Mason and Jim Nance got together and decided to each combine their respective car lines and then merge it all together. Mason with Rambler, Nash and Hudson, Nance with Packard and Studebaker. Each accomplished their goals. However before the final merger George Mason died and the new CEO George Romney would not go with the deal. The reasons for his reluctance I don't think has ever been made clear,but the bottom line is the final merger did not take place.

NEXT

Posted on: 2014/1/25 10:42
Al

1955 Patrician
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