The Futility of Conversion.
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Mr. Hear?? Sturmey's opinions on the employment of pleasure-car chassis for industrial purposes, and upon the mistaken methods of certain agents.
The following words of warning extracted from an article by Mr. Sturiney, which appeared recently in the columns of our sister journal, The Motor,' will no doubt be classed as " superfluous " by many of our readers. They draw attention to .matters with which we have dealt time after time, whenever it seemed to us expedient, and whenever we were of opinion that the warring was needed. Such an occasion is the present one, and we make no apology for this reiteration; further, we are of opinion that, if the troubles which beset the trade ten years ago are to be avoided, it would be as well if every interested person should carefully read them, and take them to heart. We are in agreement with their general tenor, subject to the one qualification that war-time exigencies are such that many a non-commercial chassis has now to be used—in the absence of anything better—for trade purposes. Any engine and frame on four wheels is, nowadays, reckoned better than nothing by many people who do not know which way to turn for transport facilities. The active transfer of second-hand vehicles through our classified advertisements testifies to this fact.
Is History to Repeat Itself ?
After a few preliminary remarks, the writer of the article continues as follows :— "So far as those new to the commercial industry are concerned, histary is, to a large extent, repeating itself, and this is the particular point of warning I wish to utter. The load conditions and requirements are, in many cases, being ignored. This was done a decade ago, when many of the present commercial vehicle builders and agents were crossing the line from the touring oar side of it, with disastrous results, which caused a set-back in the industry for some years, and every effort must be made to prevent such a condition of things recurring.
Entirely Unsuitable Chassis.
"I am afraid that the desire to effect sales often results in warping judgment, regardless of after consequences, for the mistake is still being made by traders who have a surplusage of touring cars and touring car chassis on hand to fit them with van bodies and job them off' as commercial vehicles, for which purpose they are entirely unsuited. And, apart from this broad error, where properly-constructed vehicles are built or dealt with, the tendency has developed in some quarters to ignore the load limitations, which are, of course, of such vital importance to the ultimate success of such a vehicle. There is a tendency to look upon a car with a van body as just a van,' and to put it forward as suitable for carrying practically anything the user can get into it. The man who is going to make a success in the selling of commercial vehicles must first ascertain the maximum loads which his customer's trade calls for, and then be careful to offer him only a machine designed and constructed to deal -with loads up to and not beyond that figure as a maximum. A few days ago, for instance, I heard of efforts having been made to persuade a. tradesman, whose loads ran well up to 15 cwt., to buy a Ford van—a useful little vehicle, it is true, but one which would be overloaded with half that load ; and other tradesmen have told rne that salesmen endeavouring to sell them light vans have not even inquired -of them what their loads were likely to be, but have simply offered them a van, and descanted upon such points as horse-power' speed, hill-climbing ability, and the reputation of the manufacturers as car builders. But perhaps the most short-sighted bit of deliberate policy which has come
B10 to my notice of late years was the remark made by the manager of a car-building firm which is just now considering entering the commercial vehicle side of the business. He put it forward as a considered policy that, when his vehicles were ready, he was not going to make the 'mistake' which, from his point of view, other builders of commercial vehicles had been making and were making to-day.
"To Carry from 5-cwt. to 50-cwt."
" Said he : I am not going to label my vehicles with a load nomenclature. It will only restrict sales. For instance, if I tell a man the vehicle I am offering is a one-ton car, if he thinks he wants to carry larger loads, he won't buy my car and I shall lose the sale!'
"Could anything be more shortsighted or likely to result in so much damage, not only to the reputation of that particular manufacturer, but to that of the industry at large ? And if a manufacturer adopts such an attitude with regard to his own productions, a, retailer of such vehicles can almost be excused for adopting the same attitude. That a niggardly and self-considered 'canny' purchaser, ignorant •of mechanical and engineering matters, might make the mistake of deliberately purchasing an under-requirement chassis and overloading it is not perhaps surprising. But that a. manufacturer himself should go out of his way to encourage such an attitude is most astonishing. In proof of the shortsightedness of such a policy upon the part of either the manufacturer,the retailer, or the buyer, I may mention an incident which happened five or six years ago.
A One-tonner for 25-cwt. Loads.
"An exceptionally 'sharp' north-countryman, a wholesale grocer in a large way, was about to use a motor for his business, and was being shown one of 25 cwt. capacity, which was the load figure he had mentioned as his approximate usage. He inquired the price, and, having been told it, his eye caught sight of another chassis near by.
"'How much is that ? ' said he, pointing to it. He was told a lower figure and that it was a 1-ton chassis.
—With Loads of 55-cwt. Sometimes. " 'Never mind,' he rejoined, that will do for me.' And when the fact that its load capacity was less than the figure he had given was again urged against his choice, he ejaculated, Oh! that will be all right, it'll
carry t,' and no amount of persuasion would show him that it was not the chassis he ought to have. He purchased that 1-ton model and went home, well satisfied with himself that he had saved 250. His experience of the first few months was disastrous. The vehicle was constantly breaking down, and it was found by the manufacturers upon investigation that the actual loads carried ran nearer 35 cwt., and were rarely less than 30 cwt., and he did not get satisfaction until he got a. new chauffeur who understood his job and refused to overload his vehicle was taken on, the manufacturers at the same time declining to replace any broken parts under their guarantee so long as he was overloading. After this the vehicle gave satisfaction, and, I believe, is doing so to-day. Let those of the trade, therefore, who are new to commercial work beware less they fall into this very old and very dangerous error. The trade have a grand opportunity open to them to get into and go forward with this rapidly-growing branch of the motor industry if they will only handle it in the right way, but if they are dishonest to their customers and to themselves in this matter, they will but burn their fingers and damage the industry-HENRY STURINEY."