14,000 COMMERCIAL MOTORS WANTED.
If you've noticed an error in this article please click here to report it so we can fix it.
How an American Has Secured a Pait of the Order and How He will Execute it. By Henry Sturmey.
WHILST manufacturers of motor wagons in this country have their works standing idle and hundreds and thousands of pounds'. worth of finished stock on hand, there is a huge demand for motor wagons in other parts of the world, if means can be found for paying for them. Poland alone, for instance, wants 14,000 lorries to-day, and this story tells how an enterprising American firm has secured the order for 10 per cent. of them. Its relation may serve to show some of our own people that "where there's a will 'there's a way," and may lead to their eventually securing some of the business which is to be done, thus helping to reduce unemployment and to restore the industry to normal conditions. . • With the. Polish mark, formerly worth is. on exchange, now worth but lath of a penny, any question of securing an order and getting payment -for it in cash through the banks in the ordinary way is impossible, and this is the difficulty which is confronting iia not only with Poland, but with Austria and all the Balkan countries, and, in a lesser degree, with the Allied ccanitries of the Continent.
Bad as it is for us, it is even worse, however, for producers in America, and when the bloodthirsty tyrants who have devastated and ruined Russia have been removed, Whilst there will be a, huge market there for our goods, this same condition will present itself in• a still more accentuated form, although the vast internal resources of Russia should ultimately bring that country back to normal, perhaps, before any other. Exchange and currency having broken down, the only way possible to do business is by the interchange of goods—in other word's, by-barter.
How the Order was Secured.
Last week I met. in London an American representing One of the large truck makers of the States, who had just returned from Warsaw with, as above said, a contract for 10 per cent. of the 14,000 trucks which are wanted there—a contract running into $7,000,000 in value—and the story he told me shows how he Managed to secure the order.
In the first place, he told ma, he underrated the difficulties which had to be surmounted, and he told a pitiable tale of the conditions of life in that unfortunate country. Industry of all kinds is at a standstill, even agriculture, and haw the mass of the population exist at all is difficult to conceive, especially as— even more than some of our workpeople here—they will not work. Doubtless the lack of good food has knocked all the " life " out of them, as has been the caae with the horses, which, when I was in Warsaw, were amongst the finest in Europe, but which, fed now on potato peelings and turnip tops, have neither style, stamina, nor intelligence left. Everything is indescribably dirty, even at the best hotel.
Under these conditions, there are virtually no private buyers of lorries or cars. The only buyer is the Government, and, as the transport system of the country has broken down, motor wagons are becoming more and more a necessity. But, as with all Governments in Eastern Europe, bureaucracy is rampant, and, just as it was when I was therceduring the Czarist Russian rule, what the ..Americana call "graft " is a recognized institution. I remember the British Consul there told me that no business whatever could be done with the Government without payment to some or other of the officials, and my friend's first difficulty was to locate the official who -was really responsible and in a position to say " yes " or " no to a proposition, and it took him Several weeks before he could accomplish This—he was there, in all, two months—and when the details-of the purchase had been arranged, then came the question of payment, and here the great difficulty arose.
As I have said above, payment by bankers' drafts in the usual way was impassible, although in this respect a Government is able to do what a private firm could not do,. and he was able to arrange for a 25 per cent. payment in gold dollars. The difficulty was to deal with the other 75 per cent. of the amount, because, whilst it is easy enough to say an account can be settled in goods, it is another thing when there are no goods to offer in exchange. Here, indeed, lies the real* difficulty in dealing with Eastern Europe. Their paper money is of no use and they virtually have no goods--the overflowing granaries to be found in 'Russia, for example, as claimed by the Communists, simply do not exist, even for the use of their own people So, when it comes to trading by barter, the puzzle is to find anything they can offer in exchange, and that applies in Poland practically to everything save oil and oil products, of which they have good supplies. So my friend investigated the passibility of taking out the balance in oils, and, through the American business organization, he got into touch with big oil people in Paris and elsewhere and found firms who were prepared to take quantities of oils and the price they were prepared to pay for them.He arranged to take such oils in payment at the prices offered, not making any profit on the oils, as his only interest in oils was in their value as a means of exchange through wliich he could get payment for his aehicles.
Oil as a Medium for Barter.
The Poles wore desirous that he should take crude oils in payment, but, when he went into it he found that, owing to the greater bulk and lower price, it would have taken over a year—perhaps several years —for him to get delivery, as the railway n; transport system had broken down and is almost non-existent ; so he took such refined products a-a automobile lubricating oils, of comparatively high value in relas tion to bulk, and was able thus to make up the balance of payment required.
He solved the next difficulty, the absence of suitable railway transport facilities, by. getting hold of five engines and 120 tank wagons, with which to take delivery of the oils, and to carry them to the markets in Western Europe. This story of America-n basiness ability and enterprise shows that there is still trade and good trade to be clone, by those who will get out4of settled grooves and seriously set themselves to work to study and adopt new methods to meet new conditions, and it once again proves the truth of the old adage that "God helps-those who help themselves." I suggest that, if dealing with business on these lines iatoo big a task for individual firms here, an organization to this end might be set Up by a.feombination of several who can supply the goods, or, in the interests of British trade, by the British Manufacturers' Association, or even by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders itself. Money is wanted, of course, for such an. enterprise, and also the; right man, or men, to handle the job. It seems to me that the latter is the first consideration, and that a man who is really capable of handling such -a deal as this is worth more than many firms have been accustomed to pay a foreignatra.veller. But, if the right man can be found for the job, he would be worth.. all they could pay him at the present juncture.