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Packard Factory in TIME


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The cover photo on this week's issue (October 5, 2009) of TIME magazine is of the Packard Factory! The shot is looking north on Bellevue Avenue, with the (1907) administration building in the distance. The (1949) Ultramatic assembly building is on the left, while the (1920s) truck buildings are on the right.

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Guest Trunk Rack

That photo of the decaying Packard plant complex is heart-breaking, because it is symbolic to what has become of our country.

Packard's contribution to the growth of American industry was not just in making & selling cars that were great buys for the money. Early on they were pioneers in developing drafting techniques, "just-in-time" body drops, engineering standards, quality control methods, and responsible labor practices (Packard had the distinction of having the most stable labor force in the industry).

Thus Packard's contribution was far out of proportion than its physical size. Packard pioneered mass production of roller-cams, cross-flow heads, and turbo-superchargers in World War ONE. Many Packard buffs know how Packard engineers took the fragile "short-lived-in service" Rolls Royce "Merlin" series of aircraft motors, re-engineered them to Packard standards, to the point they doubled and then TRIPLED the "time-between-overhaul" life. And many remember Packard's famous "marine engine division" and the PT boats - a major factor in reducing casualties and bringing World War II to a close.

Sadly, Packard later "pioneered" the decline of American industry.

How did General Motors & Chrysler destroy profitable companies with fine reputations that attracted both repeat and new customers ? Easy - copy what Packard pioneered after the 2nd World War. Plow profits into executive salaries and perks, reduce funding for product development, and work hard to destroy a reputation for "build quality".

It is ironic that at a car show this coming week-end, I will be able to tour the Research & Development lab of one of the many companies that has copied Packard's business methods from its glory days. It designs its cars with AMERICAN designers, builds them in this country in its own factories with AMERICAN labor, from AMERICAN sourced parts. Of course that is TOYOTA. Honda, Suburu, and some others do the same.

The article closes by suggesting there is hope for American industry. I hope the author is right.

Edited by Trunk Rack (see edit history)
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