Packard senior management made a series of fatal blunders toward the end, but things came to a head when Walter Briggs died in 1952. (The same Briggs involved in the Rickenbacker plant above; also owned the Detroit Tigers.) Briggs Manufacturing made Packard's bodies, but when Briggs died his successors -- son and son-in-law -- sought to divest. They sold the company to Chrysler, which cancelled the Packard business, leaving Packard with no source of bodies. Packard then attempted to purchase the Briggs plant on Connor Avenue from Chrysler, but by then could only afford to lease the facility. All production, not just bodies, was then shifted from the massive old Packard Grand Avenue plant to Connor, which proved to be a disastrous move, the facility being totally inadequate. The Connor plant was closed and production moved to the Studebaker plant in South Bend, Indiana, and thus the final Packards of '57-'58 were Studebaker badge jobs.
Leading up to this, Packard and then Studebaker-Packard, the two companies having merged, had been in negotiations to merge with Nash-Hudson, aka American Motors, starting with a co-supply deal. This would give Packard a source of bodies (via Hudson) and American Motors the Packard V-8. Packard had invested $20M in the V-8 engine and was looking for partners to share the cost. However, Packard reneged on the proposed co-supply deal, leasing the Briggs plant instead of purchasing bodies from American Motors. The engine deal was then cancelled by American Motors, which then developed its own V-8 from a former Kaiser-Frazer design.
The merger between Nash and Hudson, and potential mega-merger between Nash-Hudson and Studebaker-Packard, were engineered by George Mason of Nash-Kelvinator. However, he died and his successor, George Romney* (father of recent presidential candidate Mitt Romney) was less enthusiastic about the combination. The Studebaker-Packard merger proved to be a disaster. Both companies had been cooking the books for years and neither did due diligence on the other.
Packard product developments toward the end -- the V-8, the Ultramatic transmission, the Torsion-Level suspension -- were all more expensive than it could afford, but the company was desperately trying to compete in the post-war market. Though lacking in detail development and follow-through, all this Packard stuff was high-quality and over-engineered. Packard's advanced engineering dept was very highly regarded in the industry -- superior to Ford's, the equal of Chrysler's, and though not able to match it in resources, capable of looking GM's straight in the eye. GM sued Packard for patent infringement on the Ultramatic and was humiliated in court. But at the same time, the company was unable to execute. The '55 Packards were scheduled for production in October of '54, but didn't make it off the line until February, full of bugs. When Packard production ended in Detroit, 400 engineers were let go. Packard's chief of advanced engineering was Forest McFarland, whose assistant was John Delorean.
*Those who follow American politics are aware of the manufactured controversy regarding the location of Barack Obama's birth. In that light, folks might be amused to learn that George Romney, Republican presidential candidate in 1968, was born in Mexico. His family, a sect of devout Mormons, had moved from the USA to Mexico to escape religious persecution, including prosecution for polygamy.
Edited by McGuire, 03 October 2010 - 10:19.