Sunday, October 18, 2020

The Studebaker Lark Story

Silahkan membaca berita terbaru tentang otomotif berjudul The Studebaker Lark Story di website Batlax Auto.

 Covid has given me time to read and reread materials that have been on my shelf for years. Recently I developed an interest in Studebaker, Particularly because of the innovative design of the "Coming and Going" 1948 model and then subsequent designs through the early 1950s. I read sections from Patrick Foster's Studebaker: The Complete Story and Robert R. Ebert's Champion of the Lark: Harold Churchill and the Presidency of Studebacker-Packard, 1956-1961(McFarland, 2013).

Ebert's book is a most complete contextual history of the development of the Lark and the role of executive Harold Churchill.  In effect, this focused study has an accompanying wide-angle view, one in which the management strategies of executives Nance, Egbert, and Burlingame are also discussed.

Ebert's story posits reasons why Studebaker ultimately ended automobile production in 1967. Why did the company fail? Was it the result of union concessions, poor executive decisions, wavering strategies from on executive to the next, vicious competition from GM and Ford, products or that fell that short for any one of a number of reasons? How could a large integrated firm fail duding a time of unprecedented prosperity? 

And then there is the tale at the heart of the book, the coming (and going) of the Studebaker Lark.  Initially it was a success, and one year ahead of the GM Corvair and Ford Falcon import fighters. But then the car lost momentum in the marketplace, competitors took away its niche, and indeed the market would shift again by 1963-64. Could a four cylinder engine have saved the Lark? Doubtful. Larger engines and more horsepower were the item of the day after 1963. 

In reading Ebert's study, it appears that production issues -- and volume -- became a problem at critical times. Ebert never really gets at the matter of quality of the cars before the Lark -- it is one thing to bring in journalistic impressions of the various models, but what of consumer perceptions of quality and resale value? What were the problems of these cars before the recall era where one can begin to understand defects. How was quality handled at Studebaker? How long did Studebakers stay on the road compared to GM and Ford products?

Whatever questions are raised, Robert Ebert is in my mind the Studebaker historian. He knows more about these cars, has dug through a variety of archives, and has thought carefully about the firm and its economic environment.In sum, Champion of the Lark should be in every automotive historian's library.

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