Packard was an American luxury automobile marque built by the Packard Motor Car Company of Detroit, Michigan, and later by the Studebaker-Packard Corporation of South Bend, Indiana. The first Packard automobiles were produced in 1899, and the last in 1958.
Entering the 1930s, Packard attempted to beat the stock market crash and subsequent Great Depression by manufacturing ever more opulent and expensive cars than it had prior to October 1929. While the Eight five-seater sedan had been the company's top-seller for years, the Twin Six, designed by Vincent, was introduced for 1932, with prices starting at $3,650 at the factory gate; in 1933, it would be renamed the Packard Twelve, a name it retained for the remainder of its run (through 1939). Also in 1931, Packard pioneered a system it called Ride Control, which made the hydraulic shock absorbers adjustable from within the car. For one year only, 1932, Packard fielded an upper-medium-priced car, the Light Eight, at a base price of $1,750 (about $27,933 in 2014), or $735 ($11,732) less than the standard Eight.
As an independent automaker, Packard did not have the luxury of a larger corporate structure absorbing its losses, as Cadillac did with GM and Lincoln with Ford. However, Packard did have a better cash position than other independent luxury marques. Peerless ceased production in 1932, changing the Cleveland manufacturing plant from producing cars to brewing beer for Carling Black Label Beer. By 1938, Franklin, Marmon, Ruxton, Stearns-Knight, Stutz, Duesenberg, and Pierce-Arrow had all closed.
Packard also had one other advantage that some other luxury automakers did not: a single production line. By maintaining a single line and interchangeability between models, Packard was able to keep its costs down. Packard did not change cars as often as other manufacturers did at the time. Rather than introducing new models annually, Packard began using its own "Series" formula for differentiating its model changeovers in 1923. New model series did not debut on a strictly annual basis, with some series lasting nearly two years, and others lasting as short a time as seven months. In the long run, though, Packard averaged around one new series per year. By 1930, Packard automobiles were considered part of its Seventh Series. By 1942, Packard was in its Twentieth Series. The "Thirteenth Series" was omitted.
Packard was still the premier luxury automobile, even though the majority of cars being built were the 120 and Super Eight model ranges. Hoping to catch still more of the market, Packard decided to issue the Packard 115C in 1937, which was powered by Packard's first six-cylinder engine since the Fifth Series cars in 1928. While the move to introduce the Six, priced at around $1200, was brilliant, for the car arrived just in time for the 1938 recession, it also tagged Packards as something less exclusive than they had been in the public's mind, and in the long run hurt Packard's reputation of building some of America's finest luxury cars. The Six, redesignated 110 in 1940–41, continued for three years after the war, with many serving as taxicabs.
In 1939, Packard introduced Econo-Drive, a kind of overdrive, claimed able to reduce engine speed 27.8%; it could be engaged at any speed over 30 mph (48 km/h). The same year, the company introduced a fifth, transverse shock absorber and made column shift (known as Handishift) available on the 120 and Six.