A well-researched, albeit dry and repetitive chronicle of the decline of one of America's most famous ""independents."" Ward (History/Univ. of Tennessee) takes the reader on a 60-year historical ride, from Packard's introduction of the Model A in 1899 to its dissolution in 1958. It is a tragic journey, and Ward meticulously traces the financial mishaps culminating in the Packard's fall. Still, many questions remain unanswered. Should Packard have abandoned its centralized paternalistic management structure? Did Packard wait too long in seeking out strategic alliances (and possible merger) with other independents? Was it a mistake for Packard to compete with the Big Three in the ""economy"" class market? After stating in the opening pages that Packard's failure was caused by ""unforeseeable and uncontrollable events,"" the author presents mounds of company data supposedly impacting on Packard's demise, most of which could easily have been relegated to a few charts and graphs. And many of the factors are not firm-specific: For example, Packard was not the only industrial corporation that was adversely affected by post--WW II price controls, raw material shortages, inflationary pressures, and labor unrest. The most interesting passages are ancillary to the book's central theme--the intriguing bits and pieces of information relating to automotive personalities, e.g., George Mason's role in the formation of the American Motors Corporation, the infighting at Ford between ex-Packard president James J. Nance and soon-to-be secretary of defense Robert McNamara, and, probably the most unusual, the fact that Robert Teague, one of Studebaker-Packard's most innovative designers, played a girl in a few television episodes of Our Gang. At the end, one is left without an inkling as to whether Packard's collapse was an inevitable consequence of the radical industrial changes America experienced over the last century or merely an unfortunate series of avoidable managerial blunders.