The Studebaker Brothers began their path to automobile production by first building horse drawn vehicles in 1852. This continued until 1902 when they began building automobiles. As many people tried their hands at manufacturing vehicles at this time, a wide range of independent vehicle manufacturers emerged. The majority of these lasted only a few years or were quickly taken over by other companies. Their first automobiles were electric but their interests quickly turned to gasoline-powered cars. The gasoline-powered vehicles had more potential and could be produced more quickly. Throughout the years, the Studebaker name became synonymous with building quality and desirable automobiles and by 1915 they were producing more than 45,000 vehicles annually.
During World War I, the company built wagons, tanker trucks, ambulances, gun carriages, and other types of vehicles that would aide in military purposes. By doing so, they further increase their reputation and as a result, were able to sell more vehicles at the end of the war.
The Great Depression, the cause of the demise of many companies during this era, affected Studebaker as well. Studebaker went into receivership which meant they would have to close the company and sell off all their assets to pay off their debts. Studebaker approached Congress with the idea that by continuing to stay in business, they would be able to retain workers and jobs, which in turn would pay taxes. This convinced Congress to revise Bankruptcy Laws which allowed Studebaker to reorganize and repay its debts. By the closing of the 1930's, Studebaker had recovered and was once again financially stable.
The onset of World War II brought with it opportunities for Studebaker to do what it did best, to adapt and change and meet the demands of an evolving marketplace. Just like WWI, Studebaker began producing vehicles that would aide with war efforts. This amplified their reputation for building reliable, sturdy, and durable vehicles.
At the end of the war, was also the beginning of the end. Studebaker made a big mistake by not investing in technology. Other automobile manufacturers were able to build bigger, better, less expensive cars due to technological advances. Studebaker began to lose its competitive edge.
Poor planning, engineering, and underestimating demand were the next big mistakes. During the 1953 model year these mistakes deterred the company's reputation. For example, the body panels fit poorly and by not providing adequate drainage from fender wells, the vehicles would rust rather quickly. They also misjudged demand for the two-door hardtop while overproducing the four-door sedan. This led to a loss of sales and a back-log of inventory. Studebaker was unable to adapt quick enough and its reputation began to dwindle even more.
During the mid 1950's, Studebaker merged with Packard.
The Studebaker Lark was introduced in 1959. The car had styling that contained more European flavor than American, especially with the absence of tail fins so abundant on many other American cars of its time. Since the 1930's, the styling of the vehicles was done mostly by a French designer named Raymond Loewy. The European styling made the Studebaker unique and offered fresh alternatives.
The first year of its introduction was a success. The car sold well and in turn the profits were good for Studebaker. 1960 saw management and marketing changes which had a negative impact on the sale of the vehicle. In 1963, the production of vehicles by Studebaker at its main facility in South Bend, Indian, ended. Hamilton, Ontario was the only place left producing Studebakers.
In the early part of the 1960's Sherwood Egbert and Raymond Loewy designed the Avanti. It was a vehicle with a radical design and the potential to revitalize the company. Once again, poor pre-producing engineering led to vehicle problems which in turn led to fewer vehicle sales. Their reputation was ruined.
In 1966, Studebaker was no longer producing vehicles.