From Our Australian Correspondent.
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The Conservatism and Ignorance of the Home Manufacturer.
In travelling abroad from place to place, where one has opportunity of studying the different means of transport in use and in course of development, an excellent way is provided to see the means adopted in introducing the commercial-motor vehicle. During the last few months, I have seen much ; later, during the hot, steamy days on board ship in the tropics, I have had leisure to ruminato thereon, and to make comparisons between the methods, lousiness and practical, that are adopted in the various countries which I have visited in course of the years that I have been absent.
As I am expected to write about Australia, I had better devote my remarks chiefly to that land of many parliaments. Owing, I suppose, to the entire absence of private enterprise in railway building, the question of transport is becoming month by month one of increasing urgency, although I think that practically no one realizes the immediate importance of it, nor the enormous development that, drought or prosperity, must take place within the next few years. If I suggest motor vehicles, people laugh and say railways and tramways. Just so : but, where is the money coming from to build them ? And, if it were
there, if 250,000,000 were forthcoming to-morrow—and it is needed, where are the men coming from to build them ? Queensland has work "hung up," notwithstanding the fact that it is importing labour from England. New South Wales has six and eight men working on important duplication works. where as many hundred are
needed, and so on. And, what then ? Why, the railways practically cannot carry more as they are ; if they could, they cannot keep pace with increasing traffic, and certainly cannot be extended at once into the back blocks in all directions. The fact is, that the railways, corporations and private users will be driven to the commercial motor, whether they like it or not ! But, what about the slump, of which I wrote a few months ago ? That is corning first, and, as the labour supply improves, or the railways struggle on, or otherwise, the duration of the slump will be lone or short.
The British manufacturer, with a free market and 5 per cent, advantage over foreigners, should hold the market easily.. The question is, will he ? At present, how many are there who have the slightest knowledge of the market, or of their representatives on the spot, or of the methods adopted
in the sale of their vehicles? Alt the manufacturer cares about is one-third deposit with. order ; balance when ready for delivery at his works! Does a British manufacturer know that one of his Australian agents is deliberately selling his 31-ton machine as a five-tonner, and other models in like ratio, and that, unless some compromise is arranged, actions for damagea and fraud are pending ? Probably not, and probably cares less Does another know that he lost business, and caused disgust, through listening to representations from a firm which wanted to wrest the agency away from its rightful owner, and sit on it? Do three other manufacturers know that several firms have been advertising themselves as' their agents at the same time, to the bewilderment of the public '? Lastly, have all those interested heard of the prosecutions for defrauding the customs, and have they sifted the matter to the bottom, through independent channels, and satisfied themselves that their good names have not suffered in any way, either with the public or with the authorities? Of course not ! One-third deposit with order---that is all that matters.
Representatives of American manufacturers, who are visiting • Australia, hear all this ; they satisfy themselves as to its accuracy, and laugh and rub their hands over the market that is to be theirs. One-third deposit ? No With them, it does not end there ; future business is wanted, and must ba obtained on business lines. But the British motor manufacturer: one-third—, pay up, and go to—Well ; say, Australia. It scarcely reads like business, does it? And it does not appeal to business men in Australia as such either Has it occurred, too, to the British manufacturer, that in certain cases he is being simply exploited for the private ends of a
few .firms, or with the intention of forcing him to do certain things which up to now he has refused If I had one or two of them, say, in Sydney, I could show them things that would make their hair stand on end. Can all this be true ? Certainly ; it is true, and it is high time something was done.
It is a matter for the S.M.M.T That body will have to send a representative out, without stereotyped lettets of introduction, which Ix (add only ensure his seeing what he is intended to see. He would need credentials to prove beyond doubt what he is, and he would then have to work carefully
and circumspectly. He would return to England with much useful information, and a few surprising facts as well The Editor of this journal has sufficient facts to guide the investigation into right channels; and the matter is not one for consideration, but for immediate action, if the British manufacturer does not want to suffer acutely, and repent at leisure. The time is not far distant, when a heavy import duty will be put on motorcars of all kinds, and manufacturers who are not firmly established will then have a difficult task to enter the market.