Conventional wisdom of the late 1920s held that low-priced models could dilute the brand image of their higher-priced stablemates. Studebaker, along with many other manufacturers, marketed its new low-priced offerings as separate and distinct brands termed companion models.
Studebaker sought to expand its traditional middle-priced product line. Commercial vehicles were added and Studebaker acquired luxury automaker Pierce-Arrow, but the company repeatedly struggled to introduce an affordable volume model. Studebaker was one of many auto makers who believed a low-priced option was crucial for long-term success.
Studebaker’s wisdom proved sound, as the stock market crash of 1929 brought worldwide economic and social upheaval. Unfortunately, a successful low-priced automobile proved elusive for Studebaker. Studebaker’s first “companion” model was the 1927 Erskine, which lasted barely four model years. Its second effort, the 1932 Rockne, held on for only two.
Many companies struggled with product planning and marketing during this era, but unlike the “Big Three” (Chrysler, Ford, and General Motors) Studebaker could ill-afford the Erskine and Rockne’s failures and its very survival laid in the balance.