In an effort to stave off the bankruptcy that had doomed- or was soon to doom- other luxury car makers such as Cord, Duesenberg, Pierce Arrow and Auburn, Packard President Alvan Macauley introduced the Packard 120 in 1935. This car, a far cry from the company’s previous commitment to luxury, was designed to appeal to the masses and appeal to them it did. 10,000 orders were placed, each with a down payment, before the first 120 rolled off of the assembly line.
The company’s slogan, “ask the man who owns one”, once a statement connected to elegance and stature, shifted to being a more inclusive message. Even Santa Claus helped to promote the company in a 1939 holiday parade in Hartford, Connecticut, a banner affixed to his Packard Eight stating “Now I’m the Man Who Owns One- Ask Me”, an important variation on the classic slogan. The average Hartford resident may not have been able to afford such a posh model but a Packard was still within their reach.The company would advertise “senior” and “junior” line models to their respective demographics for a few years thereafter but with Macauley’s departure and Max Gilman’s installation as company president, the lines blurred and the previous luxury automobiles built by hand were moved onto the assembly line with the “junior” line models. It would be only a matter of time before the company would be overtaken in terms of prestige.
– Robert Kett, Wayne State University Graduate Student