THE PROBLEMS OF PEACE.
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The Views of Leaders of the Industry on Various Phases of the Problems That Face It.
WE ARE JUSTIFIED, every one of us, in considering that, virtually, peace has come to a world that has been sorely troubled for fourand-a-half years. We can be thankful that it has come so quickly and has been victorious for the arms of the Allies and of the United States of America so suddenly, so thoroughly and so completely that we are still left wondering.
The problems of peace now confront the aahole world, and, as every old rut and groove has been ploughed over and it course lost in the period of turmoil, the opportunity presents itself for a complete re-establishment of the commercial vehicle induatry upon the lines that will be best for its perfect development.
The essentials of the problem are :—(1) The surplus Service lorries ; (2) the protection of the industry against foreign competition ; and (3) the provision of ample and cheap fuel.
Of the surplus lorries, is it going too far to say that we must think in numbers of 50,000 or 55,0007 The 5000 lorries in good and sound condition which we receive from the German forces in fulfilment of the terms of the armistice are a. drop in the ocean, and will probably never materially worry the British industry because they must be needed for the revictualling of Germany and Russia.
But unless the industry knows what is going to happen to the returned lorries, how many will be retained for the Services, how many, if any, are likely to be placed on the market, how they are going to be released—in what quantities and at what intervals, and if they are to be placed for dispersal in the hands of their manufacturers (where British)—it is not justified in opening out on a programme such as is necessary in order to assist in the rehabilitation of the country.
The need of the moment is to find employment for every man in his proper sphere, to develop the use of his knowledge and talents, and to create a wave of industry throughout the country. This can only be done if every individual industry plays its part. Transport has a big part to play—so big is that part that it is fair to describe transport as the key to all industries. Road transport and the means therefor must be developed and encouraged. and, at the same time, there must be borne in mind the need to expand home manufacture and to develop home resources.
Thus, not only must the industry be told at once the Government's intentions with regard to the disposal of Service vehicles, but, as quickly as possible, a decision must be reached in the matter of protection. The coming of the United States of America into the war on the side of the Allies has made a solution more difficult in one respect, yet, may be, easier in another, for, after all, a spirit of reasonableness must prevail, and America must be made to realize that, without a protective wall, certain industries in this country must languish and die.
These and cognate questions suggested that certain leaders of thought in the industry might care to lay their special views from special points of view before readers of this journal, and we hope, in the next few issues, to receive them in a form, for publication. With the sudden change over from Governnaent bz.,siness to private trade, many could not be expected to deal with the matter at short notice, but we are able to give the views of Mr. II. C. B. Underdown, chairman of Commercial Cars, Ltd., Mr. Bernard Caillard, managing director of the British Lighting and Ignition Co., Ltd., and director of Wolseley Motors, Ltd., Mr. A. R. Atkey, managing director of A. R. Atkey and Co., Ltd., of Nottingham, and Mr. C. S. Windsor, of J. Bartle and Co.
From Mr. H. C. B. Underdown.
Sir,—You have been good enough to ask me for my views regarding certain matters of interest to the coinnrrcial vehicle manufacturing industry in view of altered conditions.
Government Control of the Lorry Industry.
It is very early to say anything definite with regard to the outlook. There are, however, satisfactory indications that control will be removed at an early date. Manufacturers have received notice of the termination of contracts for delivery of lorries, and it is as much to the interests of the Government as the manufacturers that their vehicles should be disposed of to their customers at the earliest possible date.
Priority of Metals.
As regards priority of materials, I do not anticipate that the present embargo on their use, except under priority numbers, will continue except for a very short time. As you are aware, the Government has already announced that materials lying in manufacturers' works may be used for ordinary business. The available supply, particularly of iron and steel, is so enormous that the need for priority can hardly be said to exist any longer. The situation with regard to copper, aluminium and brass is also satisfactory.
The Present-day Lorry Satisfactory.
The immediate future of the industry, nevertheless, contains grave difficulties due to the impossibility of immediately proceeding with the output of new postwar models for obvious reasons. Fortunately, British manufacturers can claim that their pre-war models were of the highest quality, and that customers can have no fear of continuing to purchase them until such time as new models are available.
An Import Tariff Asked For.
The question of a tariff on the importation of motor vehicles has not yet reached a stage of serious discussion by the Government, and no doubt will have to await the assembling of the new Parliament in the new year. It is to be hoped that a tariff will be put in force at any rate for a limited period in order to give the industry the chance of recovering its lost goodwill both at home and abroad.
Provided transition difficulties are safely overcome, I am sanguine that the British commercial motor industry has a bright future before it. —Yours faithfully, H. C. B. TJNDERDOWN. From Mr. Bernard Caillard.
Can We Hold the Magneto industry ?
Sir,—On every side the British manufacturer has been urged to make the best use of his opportunities and to let slip no chance of increasing the production of the country in order to supply work for the vast number of discharged soldiers and munition workers for whom, in the event of a return to pre-war conditions, there would be a very serious dearth of employment; and to increase the wealth of the country.
Especially it is insisted that where industries have sprung into existence during the war, which before were in foreign or enemy hands, these industries should be retained for the benefit of the nation at large.
The magneto industry is one of the best examples we have of this position. It is common knowledge that, before the war, at the very least 90 per cent. of the magnetos used on British cars were made in Germany, and the Germans had no really serious competitor in that particular market.
The German manufacturers worked on lines, technically and commercially, of the most extreme scientific excellence, otherwise they could never have attained to the position they did in creating what was very nearly a monopoly in an essential part of the vast majority of small internal-combustion engines.
This is a point of view which must not be lost sight of for one moment. At the same time, it is to be recollected that, with the finest possible factory and commercial organization, they could not have attained to the position they did without other important factors to help them, one of the most important of which was the strong protection afforded them by their fiscal policy. German labour conditions were more conducive to cheap production than the English, for the all-important reason that in Germany there was no restriction of output. Every man was allowed by his fellows to make all he could.
British manufacturers and workmen have shown in this war that they are quite capable of making as good magnetos as were ever made by the Germans, and there is therefore no reason why this trade should go back to Germany after the war provided that the British nation takes the necessary precautions. These precautions should include (1) A tariff on foreign machines sufficient to protect British interests and to put the British manufacturer in the same position as his foreign competitor.
It is not asked or even advocated that the British manufacturer should be put in a position whereby he forces upon the market an article inferior to the foreign-made product at a higher price. No British manufacturer worthy of his salt is afraid of competition, but he does ask for fairness.
(2) There should be a thorough understanding between employers and employed whereby all restriction of output is finally and totally abandoned, aid the workman is put in the position of being able to earn the beet possible wage.
(3) The management and organization of factories must be on the highest possible level, and, in order to further this, every opportunity must be given to the whole nation to educate itself scientifically both on the technical and commercial side.
If we, as a nation, realize these essentials and act in such a manner as to attain them, we have nothing to fear from foreign competition.—Yours faithfully, B. CAILTARD,
From Mr. A. R. Atkey.
The Matter of Fixed Prices.
Sir,—My message to the manufacturers who are interested in the commercial vehicle industry and movement is that, after they have determined upon a definite price which the consumer must pay for their products, and, having fixed that price, they should protect it by membership of the M.T.A.
The trouble in the past has been that no manufacturer has ever had a price to the consumer, and, in the main, has sold his product according to the bartering proclivities of the buyer or the exigencies of competition.
Having fixed his price, the manufacturer can then choose whether to incur his own distribution expenses or avail himself of the dealer's services to market his goods.
Can the Dealer Handle the Local Demand ?
I am quite certain that the dealer of to-day is competent at once to handle the demand for motor lorries, provided that the business is put upon a sound commercial basis, which will provide for him reasonable remuneration for services rendered.
I do not think there will be any " demand " through motor agent u unless their position is made perfectly clear to the user, i.e., that he is, in fact, representing the manufacturer, and that his work and service are included in the price of the vehicle, just as much as they would have to be—and no more—if . he were on the actual manufacturing staff.
The Question of an Import Tariff.
Surely the time has gone by when there can be any difference of opinion upon the absolute necessity of an import tariff. This unfortunate country has been too long exploited for the benefit of the foreign manufacturer. Free imports is only another name for Government subsidy to the importer. Our national taxes are really nothing more than national establishment charges, which work out somewhere about 15 per cent. It is so obviously unfair that foreign manufacturers are able to use our market without paying anything towards our national establishment expenses that there is no necessity to labour the point in a commercial journal.—Yours faithfully, A. R. ATKEV.
From Mr. Cecil S. Windsor.
The Demand for New Vehicles.
Sir.—With regard to your letter of the lath inst., I consider that the future of the commercial vehicle trade is extremely bright. The present Government lorries would appear to be fully engaged for the next is months for. reconstruction work in Belgium. Those in this country are of a negligible quantity as far as the trade is concerned, and would appear to be wanted for Army work. The demand for new vehicles will undoutbedly be very heavy in proportion to the demands prior to the war. With regard tobodywork, a great deal of repair work is very urgently required, and we have very large orders on hand to commence immediately we are released from our present Government contracts.
In the circumstances, I consider the future of the commercial vehicle industry extremely bright.—Yours faithfully, C. S. WINDSOR.