Open Road

Packard should return to fill a void in American luxury

Bringing back an important brand.

Seems more and more these days iconic car brands are rising from the ashes and staking their claim in today's auto market. A lot of those brands hinge on their past heritage and come back bolstered by some parent OEM. I for one am a very big fan of this, as long as the execution stays true to that heritage. An example of something that gets me excited is the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio. That car fits right into what a pure Alfa should be.

Although in other markets that particular brand may have continued to exist in pockets, it is a true comeback here in North America. Alfa's re-birth in the US with the 4C and now the Giulia is an example of beautifully taking the heritage of Alfa and sticking true to that DNA when bringing it back. They didn't just bring back the badge and slap it on some FF platform, and insist that there was Alfa DNA in there. Again, I am not numb to the fact that in today's world, these cars still have to share parts and even a platform with some other vehicle on the market ... but when the engineers are in charge it happens right.

So what other brand do I miss? If you think about it, there are very little holes in the current automotive market product offering from a pure business standpoint. I can get a car that technically fits any need that I have. That is true from a "want" perspective as well. So where does that leave us? What is that next brand to come from the ashes and re-stake its claim?

Being from Detroit, I have to say that there are a few brands that really have an ability to make some noise. That being said, the new age of the auto industry is just beginning to take shape. Although there has been a lot of investment in Detroit to facilitate future technologies, most of the new thought leadership around mobility is coming from outside Detroit. So to stay true to the idea, any old Detroit brand that comes back should help Detroit stake it's claim on the being a leader in the future of the automotive industry.

There is one brand that comes to mind for me. There are a lot out there, and all have solid reasons for a comeback, but the one I want to see would serve the above purpose. That brand is Packard. Stay with me for a minute here.

What was Packard known for back in it's heyday? These were luxury vehicles. You didn't buy one of these if you just wanted to get from point A to B. These cars were a high-performance personal statement. If you drove a Packard, it said something about you. That heritage and brand image are both things I think can cultivates very well with the new-age performance hybrid and alternative energy cars.

Just think of it like this. Tesla has very successfully created a brand that represents everything that is forward thinking. If you drive a Tesla, one can make some assumptions about what you believe in. You believe in the advancement in technology. You believe in the need for alternative energy sources. You are a forward-thinking person in general. All that being said, you are not a boring person (as in a Prius just doesn't do anything for you). So what if you could enhance that brand, by putting some Detroit back into it. Take the good and add the heritage.

So how would this work? The product lineup would be very small. I would position a luxury sedan with an electric drive to directly compete with Tesla. That is how the brand would start. This would be no easy endeavor, and would take a lot of capital investment. I am not a graphic artist, or an expert in automotive design by any means, and for this reason I won't even try to create a rendering of what the Packard would look like.

I do happen to know where I would want to build it. This kind of project is exactly what is needed to bring the old Packard plant back to life. It would mean a complete overhaul of the location, but it would be just that. An overhaul, not a demo and build. That building right now is a symbol of what Detroit used to be. It needs to be a symbol of what Detroit is now and is going to be in the future. Imagine making a sleek new electric driver car in the renovated Packard plant. I could get behind that. This is also coming from a person who doesn't own a car that gets better than 20 MPG (by choice).

There have been attempts to buy the brand and make some comebacks, but they were mostly one-offs. This would not be like one of those. This one would be quite the endeavor. It would require hard work, strong partnerships within the automotive industry, and an absolutely strong design team. The only real way to do it would be ground up. Anything short of that, would not be Packard. This would only add to the portfolio of brands that have recently come out of Detroit that hold true to the past with a the GPS set for the future.

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