Studebaker Corporation was a United States wagon and automobile manufacturer based in South Bend, Indiana. Founded in 1852 and incorporated in 1868 under the name of the Studebaker Brothers Manufacturing Company, the company was originally a producer of wagons for farmers, miners, and the military.
Studebaker entered the automotive business in 1902 with electric vehicles and in 1904 with gasoline vehicles, all sold under the name "Studebaker Automobile Company". Until 1911, its automotive division operated in partnership with the Garford Company of Elyria, Ohio and after 1909 with the E-M-F Company. The first gasoline automobiles to be fully manufactured by Studebaker were marketed in August 1912. Over the next 50 years, the company established an enviable reputation for quality and reliability. The South Bend plant ceased production on December 20, 1963, and the last Studebaker automobile rolled off the Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, assembly line on March 16, 1966.
Exit from auto business
Closure of South Bend plant, 1963
After continued poor sales of the 1964 models and the ousting of president Sherwood Egbert, the company announced the closure of the South Bend plant on December 9, 1963, and produced its last car in South Bend on December 20. The engine foundry remained open to supply the Canadian plant until the end of the 1964 model year, after which it was also shuttered. The Avanti model name, tooling, and plant space were sold off to Leo Newman and Nate Altman, a longtime South Bend Studebaker-Packard dealership. They revived the car in 1965 under the brand name "Avanti II". (See main article Avanti cars (non-Studebaker).) They likewise purchased the rights and tooling for Studebaker's trucks, along with the company's vast stock of parts and accessories. Trucks ceased to be built after Studebaker fulfilled its remaining orders in early 1964. There were some '1965' model Champ trucks built in South America using CKD parts ( completely knocked down ). These models used a different grill than all previous Champ models.
Closure of Hamilton plant, 1966
Limited automotive production was consolidated at the company's last remaining production facility in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, which had always been profitable and where Studebaker produced cars until March 1966 under the leadership of Gordon Grundy. It was projected that the Canadian operation could break even on production of about 20,000 cars a year, and Studebaker's announced goal was 30,000–40,000 1965 models. While 1965 production was just shy of the 20,000 figure, the company's directors felt that the small profits were not enough to justify continued investment. Rejecting Grundy's request for funds to tool up for 1967 models, Studebaker left the automobile business on March 16, 1966 after an announcement on March 4. A turquoise and white Cruiser sedan was the last of fewer than 9,000 1966 models manufactured. In reality, the move to Canada had been a tactic by which production could be slowly wound down and remaining dealer franchise obligations honored.
The closure adversely affected not only the plant's 700 employees, who had developed a sense of collegiality around group benefits such as employee parties and day trips, but the city of Hamilton as a whole; Studebaker had been Hamilton's tenth largest employer.
Many of Studebaker's dealers either closed, took on other automakers' product lines, or converted to Mercedes-Benz dealerships following the closure of the Canadian plant. Studebaker's General Products Division, which built vehicles to fulfill defense contracts, was acquired by Kaiser Industries, which built military and postal vehicles in South Bend. In 1970, American Motors (AMC) purchased the division, which still exists today as AM General.
In May 1967, Studebaker and its diversified units were merged with Wagner Electric. In November 1967, Studebaker was merged with the Worthington Corporation to form Studebaker-Worthington Inc., a Delaware corporation. The Studebaker name disappeared from the American business scene in 1979, when McGraw-Edison acquired Studebaker-Worthington, except for the still existing Studebaker Leasing, based in Jericho, NY. McGraw-Edison was itself purchased in 1985 by Cooper Industries, which sold off its auto-parts divisions to Federal-Mogul some years later. As detailed above, some vehicles were assembled from left-over parts and identified as Studebakers by the purchasers of the Avanti brand and surplus material from Studebaker at South Bend.