Concerning American Trucks.
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By HENRY STURMEY.
Ever since my fisist visit to the motor industry of the United -States—auch as it was then—in 1898, I have kept pretty closely in touch with the American trade, and, particularly of late years, with the commercial vehicle or " truck" industry, as it is termed there. Here let me say I like the appellation " truck" better than " commercial-motor vehicle." It is short, less cumberoorne, and more to the point than our somewhat cumbrous designation. Well, to return to the vehicle itself. It may be generally stated that there are two classes of motor truck built in the Unitad States, just as there aaetwo classes of touring cars. As with us here, there are firms building both types of vehicle and building. them entirely, to the same extent as is done here, in their own factories, and there are firms, on the other hand, whose trucks are entirely assembled productions, built up of standardized units supplied by the component houses. There is almost every intermediate stage between these two extremes, and, speaking generally, it may be said that standardized " trade" components enter more generally—or more widely—into the composa tion of American trucks than is the ease with us, largely for the reason that there are more firms specializing upon the production of component parts there than here, and that, as a consequence, such parts can be obtained both more readily and more cheaply there, owing to the extent of their production —and quantity production upon strictly standardized lines is America's only way to counterbalance the effect on costings of her high wages. As with us, neariy all the firms in the States who are making both pleasure and commercial cars, and making them mainly or entirely in their own lac-, tories—such ac the "three P.'s." the Packard, Peerless, and Pierce-Arrow—are making several models of each type, with the consequence that, whilst they are undoubtedly very good, owingto the comparatively small quantities in which individual models are produced, the cost of production, and hence the selling price, of these types is substantially higher that... with us, and it may he said that, generally speaking, this applies to all of the larger load wagons—from three tons up—made in the States, as, of course, quan. tities in large-load requirements are less and standardized components more difficult to obtain, co that it will be found that the average prices of three, four, and five-ton truck chassis are around $3250.00 (2577), $3750.00 (2786), and $4500.00 (2937), as compared with the figures we are acquainted with here. Th prices of many are considerably—R.100 to £150— higher than this, and it may also be incidentally mentioned that—doubtless owing to the absence of axleweight restrictions—trucks are built to much higher load capacities there than here, seven-ton trucks being quite common, whilst some models run as high fa,. 10 tons.
When it comes to the smaller load vehicles, we get far more "assembly propositions," as there is a number of firms specializing on the production of engines, clutches, transmissions, steering, gear, axles, ;etc.: each firm making one Component only and producing in large quantities at very reasonable praes. so that it is quite usual for firms of ear buildeaS in their catalogues to confine their specifications to the mention of the standardized components they employ, and some .idea of the extent to which these standardized components: enter into the construction of American trucksmay be gleaned when I say thats for example, 19 makes of trucks embody Wisconsin's engines, and Buda., B,utenber, and Continental engines have each probably nearly as many adherents, whilst Ross steering Rears are employed upon no fewer than 85. Naturally, under these manufacturing
B46 conditions, whilst prices on the one-and-a-half and two-ton wagons, which are made entirely, or nearly so, by their producers, are substantially higher than with us, there is a very large number of trucks of two tons and under which aye listed at less than $2000.00 (2416), whilst two firms, the Reis and the Koehler— who, by the way, are not using many of these standardized components—are, iike Ford in passenger cars, concentrating upon single models only, the former on two tons, the latter on one, with price results which am o remarkable.
When considering American vehicles, one or two points have to be kept in mind, and of these perhaps the most important is the fact that the American ton contains only 2000 lb. as against our 2240 lb., so that a." two ton ' U.S. truck is only the equivalent in load capacity to less than our 36 cwt., andan American six-bonnet is very little more than equivalent to our five-ton outfits. One or two firms in the United States are building 21and 31 ton trucks, which may safely be taken as the equivalent of our 2 and 3 tanners, but the number is very few, and for the most part the people who are handling U.S. trucks in this country and who, many of them, have very little knowledge of the commercial vehicle industry, are ignoring this very important difference, and are listing their vehicles under their U.S. designations, Which is unfair to the British buyer. Some are even going further, for I recently came across one truck, , listed by its makers as a 3-4 ton" vehicle, which was calmly masquerading as a 5-ton wagon in the hands of the British representative, and was, I believe, being offered to the British War Office as such
Another characteristic feature of American trucks is the fact that the steering gear is arranged on the left-hand side of the car. Until two years since it vas the other way about. Last year about 20 per cent. had changed over, and this season, with scarcely an exception, all U.S. trucks are left-handed vehicles, an arrangement which, correct enough for the American rule of the road, is, of Course, entirely wrong for ours. So far as I have been able to ascertain, the great majority of American truck builders decline to alter this construction for this market, and the cars are being sold. over here as left-handed vehicles. There are one or two exceptions to this rule.
Under existing war conditions the high figure at which Atlantic freights now stand is very much against the sale of American trucks, and especially against.the sale of the highest class trucks of large load capacity, as from 260 to 2100 has to be added to the already higher price of these vehicles on that account., and therefore whatever sale these wagons may secure under existing economical conditions. I cannot think that their hold on this market is likely to be permanent, unless production casts and selling prices can be substantially reduced from present figures, as with the Br'tish preference for British goods—which preference has been and will be more strengthened by the war—when Britjah makers are once more able to give delivery, fevavvill be found to pay a higher figure for an American article, however good.
On the other hand I am of opinion that whatever hold the "under 2 ton" U.S. trucks are able to obtain here, theviare likely to retain it by reason of the fact that their prices, even after .paVing the present heavy freights, are substantially lower than for British built vehicles ; whilst, when the war is over, 'ocean freightage will decline from present figures, and ma ny—indeed most—of them, like the ubiouitous Ford car, are very good value for the money.