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22nd June 1920, Page 13
22nd June 1920
Page 13
Page 13, 22nd June 1920 — SHOULD THE AGENT PAY?
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Which of the following most accurately describes the problem?

Keywords : Agent, Reputation

The Views of Mr. Gerald Bunn, Service Manager to the Austin Motor Co., Ltd., on the Responsibility of the Agent are Here Replied To.

By "Vim."

THE POSSIBLE, and probable, value of continuing to discuss the responsibility of the agent in the matter of first adjustments is my excuse for returning to it again. Mr. Gerald Bunn's letter (published in our issne, of June 8th) contained a number of Points of great. interest to us who stand between commercial vehicle manufacturers and users and who must need do; the best that lies within our POwer on behalf of both. If any assurance be necesSary, I can positively, assert that not one agent in a thousand thinks that his. business would be worth a minute's purchase were he to regard himself in the light of a party whose job it is to hand goods over the counter and take his profits. At the same time, I cannot refrain from mentioning the fact that agents for commercial 'vehicles very, very rarely come away with 15 per cent, on a deal, and—so far as my experience has gone—never with 20 per cent. Perhaps Mr. Bunn forgot for the moment that, owing to manufacturers _ having initiated the evil practice of giving discounts to purchasers who are actual users, the list prices of most vehicles are not their selling prices, except in some present eases, through supply being behind demand. Agents are waiting for the day when their 'commissions shall be settled at the minimum workable level, and prices to users be firmly fixed, so that all will secure fair treatment.

The Agents Recognize Their Responsibilities.

It has been ray anxiety to show, in everything I have written on this question, that agents in nowise wish to shirk Their rightful responsibilities. I have repeatedly stated that the local distributor must take upon his shoulders the task of seeing that purchasers are put on the right track to obtain satisfaction from their purchases, and kept there. To the best of my ability, I have endeavoured to indicate in some measure how he can do this, Not once have I put forward anything that could be construed into a suggestion that agents ought not to be expected to give any free service whatsoever, and that the manufacturers they represent should .stump up for • every trifling job that may have to be done during the first few weeks of a, vehicle's active existence.

There are, however, many instances of agents having to perform an unreasonable am.ount of service, for which they can ask for no compensation from their customers, through faults in manufacture. When, therefore, distributors raise complaints on this score, they should be given a hearing, and not be dismissed as grumblers. If all manufacturers' service managers could stand in their agents' shoes for a month or two, they would appreciate this, and, pos.sibly, be more sympathetic than they often are. Mr. Gerald Bunn will not, I trust, take this remark as a reflection on him, for the department of his firm for which heis responsible is becoming a pattern for others to copy.

Agents are perfectly willing to attend to minor matters of the nature of tuning up, adjusting brakes, showing a purchaser's driver round a vehicle, sending out one of their own -men with him for two or three days, if necessary, etc., etc. They do not kick at expenses like these • it is only at extraordinary labour charges that they begin to jib.

Here are some -examples of the work they sometimes have to carry out, in order to sustain their own good name and the reputation of manufacturers;

they are taken from real life, • and may. be described, in the term used by film producers, as close ups" for the benefit of those who do not realize the troubles of the local distributor.

(a) Lorry delivered to agent at opposite end of England with petrol tank leaking. Tank removed after considerable cutting away of bodywork, repaired, re-installed, and bodywork made good. Makers pmpared to supply new tank on receipt of one claimed to be defective, but nothing more. Agent 23 out of pocket, and still had to provide for ordinary service.

-(h) Gear selector arm broke on first journey. Vehicle towed in three miles • gearbox taken to pieces and part' sent to makers for examination. New selector arm supplied free (value somewhere about because material acknowledged to be faulty. Makers pointed out that, under guarantee, they were only obliged to replace faulty parts. Agent the poorer by nearly 28, as he could not afford to offend a good customer, who bought on, his advice.

(c) Engine of new van would not pull. After trying all he knew to improve running, agent wrote to makers, who suggested changing pistons for later type giving. higher compression, which they would undertake to do free of charge ir van sent to their works. Owner, already kept waiting weeks for delivery, complained so pointedly about the probable delay and the certain wearing out of his tyres on a 200miles journey, not to mention the cost of fuel, that the agent sent for the pistons and had his men work all niOt to fit them. Best part of a !' tanner" gone this time,, for a job that was ' a good way beyond mere service.

Should the AgentsThrow Themselves on the Makers' Guarantee?

The above examples could be multiplied over and over again, but that would serve no useful purpose. They have been' related' not:with the object of pillorying makers': methods, but to assist in 'preying that agents cannot co-operate 'fully With manufacturers in giving' users service unleSa Manufacturers Will cooperate with thein.. Maybe it will be said, that the distributors 'concerned in the cases which I have de scribed would have ,been justified adopting • the same attitude isthe niakerso i.e., that the guarantee as printed only Covered-the replacing of defective parts, and that the labour entailed in fitting them must be paid for by the owners: But how could they • --knowing their customers 'Personally, and having staked their goodwill by recommending the purchases —have done that? If those agents had really got 15 or 20 per cent. out of the sales, they would, of course, have borne the losses eheerfully—and so, no doubt, would they, if the cow had jumped over the moon, or anything else equally remarkable had occurred !

May I say bluntly that manufacturers have no alternative to "agreeing that agents should have the handling of all general 'repairs." That is-obvious. Users are not likely to trot off to the factory whenever they want work carried out, nor would it be practica-ble for each maker to establish chains of service depots all over the country comparable with the present system of privately-owned garages. Besides, a sale is a sale, arid should bear its reasonable profit. Subsequent repairs are extra business, which should stand on its own legs—a performance that is pretty difficult to it at the best of times, without asking it to support losses elsewhere.


People: Gerald Bunn

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