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New "What Ifs?"
#1
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Dave Brownell
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The newest (August ) Hemming's Classic Car's Pat Foster has his monthly column titled : Packard: An Alternative Ending. He goes over many of the same "what ifs" we've seen here in our PI Forums, but he also leaves out some critical factors including the disappearing Defense contracts, the urgency of losing Briggs bodies and the Studebaker merger options. But he does have some new thoughts about separating the model development schedules for Packards and Clippers that I thought were interesting, but not probably workable. My final take is that our forum members gave a more thoughtful look at the issues and the magazine's take is a bit over-simplified.

Still, it's fun to see how outsiders look at the pain caused by the loss of Packard. Sometime it may be best to Ask the Man Who Doesn't Own One.

Posted on: 2014/6/12 10:15
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Re: New "What Ifs?"
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Steve203
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My final take is that our forum members gave a more thoughtful look at the issues and the magazine's take is a bit over-simplified.

My advantage over a columnist with a deadline is that I'm retired, and rather than go south in the winter, start looking into something I have wondered about, so I have a lot more time to devote to research, like the 6 months plus spent on Packard this year.

The columnist, by ignoring the cut off of defense contracts and the sale of Briggs, is ignoring the major influences on management's decision making as Nance and company were forced to scrap their long term plans, deprived Packard of needed profits, and live in a continuous crisis mode.

...he does have some new thoughts about separating the model development schedules for Packards and Clippers

What was he thinking of? Personally, given that part of Packard's problem was too few units to amortize development costs over, I don't see how creating more platforms to develop would address that problem.

Posted on: 2014/6/12 11:32
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Re: New "What Ifs?"
#3
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Dave Brownell
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After some further reading the August issue mentioned above, I found that, while not exactly Pacard-centric, there's lots for lovers of this forum to find interesting. There are plenty of Packards pictured in the Amelia Island recap. There's a fascinating CCCA survey that tells of the surviving top ten models and makes (attention O-D, a 1934 Packard is second only to a 1941 Cadillac) and some neat statistics about the real classic category. Then there's a 1929 Packard story in My First Car.

For the designers, a great first hand report on AMC's chief stylist, Ed Anderson and how Dick Teague (formerly of Packard) replaced him.

All in all, a reason to visit the newstand if you're not a subscriber.

Posted on: 2014/6/12 15:02
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Re: New "What Ifs?"
#4
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Owen_Dyneto
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...CCCA survey that tells of the surviving top ten models and makes (attention O-D, a 1934 Packard is second only to a 1941 Cadillac)

Even more surprising when you look at the production numbers:

1934 Packard production, Eight, Super 8, & Twelve (all are CCCA Classics): 8000 units

1941 Cadillac (just those that are CCCA Classics): 35,980 units.

Add to that that at the time the WW II scrap drives began, the Cadillacs were at most 1 year old, the 34 Packards nearly 8 years old.

Other than 1899 (100% survivor rate), 1934 Packard has the highest survival rate of any Packard year, followed closely by 1933. No other years even come close.

Posted on: 2014/6/12 18:14
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Re: New "What Ifs?"
#5
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John Harley
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Dave, et al

The figures are in Robert Neal's books. Packard's profits after WWII were in the non auto lines, i.e. defense work was subsidizing the automobiles.The numbers are very sobering. Packard had many problems but taking the defense work away was a shot to the head

Regards

John Harley

Posted on: 2014/6/12 22:02
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Re: New "What Ifs?"
#6
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Steve203
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Packard's profits after WWII were in the non auto lines,

I've seen numbers saying 50% of revenue and 80% of profits were from defense contracts. All defense contracts are "cost plus" so the contractor is guaranteed a profit, no matter how high his costs are.

Kaiser made so much money on defense work, and lost so much on autos, that some stockholders were demanding the company exit autos and be a pure defense contractor.

The J-47 contract that Packard built Utica for called for 3,000 engines for $180M. On June 24 of 52, the contract was increased to 6,000 engines for $393M. Initial production rate was supposed to be 500 engines/month. In March of 52, 4 months before the first engines were completed, the rate was cut to 300/mo. In January, 53, the rate was cut to 250/mo and contract completion stretched from Dec 53 to March 55.

In Feb 53, the Air Force announced a cut in procurement of 20%, which was distributed disproportionatly as Packard and Studebaker contracts were cut 40%, while GE suffered a much smaller cut. That left Packard producing 150 engines/mo until October, when production was cut to a pilot line producing 25/mo, which ended in June 55.

The wheels came off the J-47 program just as Packard was spending over $40M to update it's auto line, including over $20M for equipment and tooling for the V8 and another $4.5M for tooling for the Twin-Ultramatic.

While Packard probably recovered it's investment in Utica ($15M), if it had used space it already owned, or leased space, as Studebaker had, Nance would have had that $15M in the bank to finance his modernisation program.

Posted on: 2014/6/13 8:21
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Re: New "What Ifs?"
#7
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Rusty O\'Toole
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From previous discussions I learned that Packard's postwar plans were to ramp up production to 200,000 per year but this was never accomplished. Does anyone know why? Did they never build the production capability? Or did they build the plant, then never manage to sell that many cars?

This may have been an ambitious plan, but would have been possible, given the great strength of the medium and high priced car sales in the 1945 - 55 time period.

Posted on: 2014/6/13 22:49
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Re: New "What Ifs?"
#8
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Dave Brownell
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Much of the production problems for all the post war manufacturers was external. The public demand was there, but Government restrictions limited prices to curb inflation. More importantly, most companies simply could not get the materials they needed to make the cars. Auto workers also had demands and when they were not met, went on strike. In 1950, the Korean conflict just made Packard's situation both better and worse.

Remember that Packards were among the most expensive cars on the post war American market. Even though we still love them, what would you buy if you were placed back in that time: An overhead valve Cadillac V-8 with Hydramatic and tail-fins, or a slightly updated Clipper with a very quiet straight eight with overdrive? And the Cadillac cost was perhaps ten percent cheaper. Plus the fact that the Cadillac dealer had cars because of a more generous production allotment and steel supply, while Packard put you on a waiting list until supplies came around.

Thank goodness for the two percent of the public who believed that Packard had made fine cars before the war and waiting for another fine one was the thing to do. But many Americans needed new wheels and they took what they could get and afford. Give Packard buyer loyalty a hand because that's the main reason it lasted ten years beyond World War II.

Posted on: 2014/6/14 8:09
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Re: New "What Ifs?"
#9
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Steve203
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Nance's goal was 200K/yr. They never came close. The market was strong, but Packard was weak.

Their prices were high, partly because of the low production rate to amortize deveopment and tooling costs over, and because of an obsolete, inefficient plant.

Their products were obsolescent. They clung to the flathead straight eight when the market was demanding OHV V8s.

At the end of WWII, they had the time and money to address the obsolete plant and product issues, but they didn't.

By the time they addressed the product issues with the 55-56 series, their resources had been frittered away. They still had inefficient production facilities, and the shortage of capital resulted in inaequate development of the features of the 55 models. The combination of poor build quality due to the production facilities and breakdowns of the underdeveloped components destroyed the product's reputation.

Then there was the added drain from Studebaker. Nance had rushed into the merger because his financial people were telling him Packard was "on a path to bankruptcy", but the merger accelerated that same path.

The point of these "what if" threads was to see if there was any way that Nance could have kept Packard going a bit longer if he had made a couple moves differently.

-what if he had bought the Kaiser Willow Run plant, a modern, fully equiped, auto body and assembly plant, in the six week window between Kaiser's loss of it's Air Force contract, which precipitated Kaiser's abandonment of Willow Run, and the plant's purchase by Hydramatic.

-what if he had waited until Studebaker went bankrupt and cherry picked a few assets, consoldiated Studebaker production with Packard at Willow Run, and abandoned Studie's liabilities in South Bend.

The bottom line is, he couldn't have bought Willow Run, because he didn't have the $30M to do so. Without an efficient plant, buying Studebaker assets in liquidation to pump up production volume and the dealer network would not have helped.

It's fun to speculate, but, by the time Jim Nance came on the scene in 52, it was too late. I put the 55-56 Packards in a league with the Cord 810 and the Avanti, brilliantly conceived, but terminally flawed by the company's underlying weakness.

Posted on: 2014/6/14 8:34
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Re: New "What Ifs?"
#10
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Jimmy Scichilone
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Patrick Foster by his own admission was not a fan of JJ Nance and has often misreported or left out important issues to distort the facts about both Packard/Studebaker and AMC. I take him to task about his negative statements concerning Nance while largely ignoring or glossing over the havoc that Abernathy did to AMC and how he destroyed all the carefully well laid plans of former AMC boss George Romney in building AMC up to 3rd place in the industry by his careful planning and advertising and narrow market segment. When I see Patrick Foster's name on an article I gloss over it and take it with a grain of salt..... 'nuf said.

Posted on: 2014/6/14 9:41
De Mortuis Nil Nisi Bonum...Speak Only Good Of The Dead.....
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