The Progress of Export and Foreign Trade.
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" First out for the New Year " was the motto line for our special issue of last month. It is still arriving out, at the more-distant parts of the world, but we already have received word, from some of the nearer ports through which copies were distributed, that the 52 pages of text, the 140 odd illustrations and the 116 pages of advertisement matter, which this extrnt number contains, have arrested the attention of wealthy purchasing interests. An expansion in the demand for our regular thin-paper edition, which has been issued by us each week for upwards of a year, is the first consequential result observable, if we except shipping companies' announcements, and we are gratified to have received more adviees of intended visits to our offices, which visits are to occur between this date and June next, from esteemed subscribers who intend to combine attendance at the Coronation festivities with a closer investigation over here into the claims of up-ro-date commercial motors. It is hardly necessary for us to add that we shall be delighted to hold the experienced editorial staff of THE CommanciAL MOTOR at the disposal of all snch visiting readers from Australasia, Canada, India, or any of the Colonies, either at the dates which were for some weeks announced to cover the holding of the Olympia Show (31st March to 8th April). which Show has been abandoned, or subsequently. It appears that the influx will be a not-inconsiderable one, and obviously one of direct interest to many people.
The C.M.U.A. and the Heavy Motor Car Order, 1904.
The Commercial Motor Users Association, arising in part out of letters which have appeared in the " Opinions from Others" columns of THE COMMERCIAL -MOTOR which journal is officially recognised by this important national body, has under consideration.the matter of sending a deputation to the President of the Local Government Board, in order to seek amendment and redress in respect of certain unduly-restrictive Articles in the Heavy Motor Car Order of 1904. The writer, as a member of the subcommittee which is entrusted with the preparation and presentation of the case for heavy-motor traffic, now invites the communication of additional views upon vital points at issue. If a desire for the confidential treatment of any particular letter is expressed, such request will he observed, but there is much to be gained at this juncture by a free and unrestrained discussion. Editorial discretion, as usual, is of course reserved in respect of publication, for it may not be expedient to print even all that is submitted unconditionally by correspondents.
The disturbance of the existing Order, at a time when opponents of heavy traffic are on the alert, is not to be
lightly sought. It opens the door, of necessity, to a Departmental hearing for antagonistic views from road authorities and others. The Association, we know, is not oblivious to that fact. None the less, there appears to be a deep-rooted feeling amongst. some owners, and particularly in the cases of steam wagons, that present conditions and uncertainties as to unladen weights tend in the direction of their being crushed between the vehicle maker and the road maker. Some owners of petrol wagons, again, are materially hindered in their operations by the untoward and unnecessary inter-effects of registered axleweights upon permissible speeds, when the vehicles are running either partly loaded or light. At the moment, therefore, the several points indicated are about to be reviewed in committee, in relation to alterations in the Order for 1904, and the C.M.U.A. wishes to be in possession of all the factors without exception.
Exit the Free Trial.
Time was, not ninny years ago, when more than a few mean-minded people systematically imposed unreasonable demands on the motor industry, in respect of free trial runs, without bona-fide intentions of purchase. On the private-car side, of course, the opportunity for abuse of this practice was less than on the utility-vehicle side : free demonstrations of a fortnight's duration, with lorries and vans, were not uncommon, until a check to the growing and costly evil was arranged by the S.M.11,1.T. To-day, in our opinion, the time has come for the free trial to be relegated to a place in history. We do not wish to see the demonstration trial on terms abandoned, as there is no question about its value to a sales department, but that method of submitting a vehicle can be made a fair one for all parties. The free trial has too often been a case of " heads you win, tails I lose " for the maker or agent.
Convincing testimony from owners, in practically all branches of application, has effectively removed any measure of justification for a concession in service which always involved heavy additions to the cost of selling, and which—by reason of the relative shortness of the period of trial use—seldom was wholly satisfactory to the prospective buyer. The fact remained, in the stages of progress of which we write, that there was no real alternative by which to effect the conversion of likely purchasers in particular trades, hut these difficulties exist no longer. The free trial must go, and go it should, in the comparativelyfew instances whence it is still offered, forthwith. It is either a sign of newness, or of weakness in references.
A newcomer to the industry will do better to get several vehicles into permanent service, somehow, by means of inducements and influences which fit the cases, but certainly otherwise than by free short-term trials to dozens of inquirers. True, the former course is inseparable from the tedious concomitant of biding one's time ; yet, by patience alone, in the matter of acquiring half-a-dozen independent supporters, can the best of aids to sales organization be secured. Then, with a properly-managed publicity scheme, in order to gain touch with the incoming flow of potential new purchasers, who are all the time debating
and studying without disclosure of their names, the lot or the newcomer will suddenly be transformed from one of an establishment-and-suspense character into one which in another year or two will show good trading profits. We are all against the free trial, whether of the worst and promiscuous form or administered intelligently, even for the manufacturer who is trying to get in. The risk of exploitation is considerable, the return in relation to expenditure problematical. Right away back to the years 1897 and 1898, the oldest British makers, who are now reaping handsome profits, sold a few machines at or below cost, followed them up in manner comparable to the tender care of a parent, and took all steps to polish off the corners, which neither designer nor works manager could then eliminate, as road experience was obtained. :Intro tell'PN, "litres nueurs has its lesson here, we know, but the same policy holds good fundamentally : it is one of degree. Not everybody does turn the experience of others to account in a new model.
To those of our readers who have yet to enter the ranks of commercial-motor owners, but who are pondering the step, we decry the free trial of a few days, a week, or even a fortnight. They may well ask, instead, for references to owners in the same trades as themselves, or, where these are not available, for guarantees. A trial of a single day, over the trickiest or hilliest round, is quite as much as is reasonably to be expected from constructors of repute and standing, such as those whose business announcements appear in this journal, and, if some of them ask for payment, that may be accepted as evidence of their consciousness of the worth of their machines. The inherent strength of the movement to which we are devoted, the soundness of the cause of commercial motoring, and the absolute folly of owners of horses and horse-drawn vehicles who pretend to be indifferent to the claims of motor transport, will again be made clear by us in our " Users' Experiences—costs and results—special number " of three weeks hence. We expect its contents and their wide distribution to sound the final knell of the once-useful free trial, coincidently with the North of England Show.
Orders for Chars-a-banes.
January and February are favourite months for the ordering of motor chars-a-bancs. Would-be owners must place their instructions betimes this year, as several leading makers are already unable to promise delivery before July. What delivery will actually be given may prove to be quite another story. We are, in any event, fully justified in directing the immediate attention of join/tasters, hotel keepers and other readers, whose interests threaten to be affected to the risks named. With ordinary bodies, upon which the seats are disposed in crosswise tiers (with or without a centre gangway) and protected by a. canopy, proprietors who cater for the public at many seaside and other pleasure resorts can easily take anything between £35 and £55 a week. To accomplish this, a fare basis of at most 24. per passenger per mile is needed, with reductions on the long-distance bookings. Scores of motor chars-h-banes earn, from May to September inclusive, an average of 2s. 6d. per mile run. The total cost of operation, with maintenance, provision for depreciation, and reasonable allowances for administration, need not exceed 8d. per mile: it requires bad control for the east to reach 9d. The profits are ample enough to bear a winter of idleness. In these circumstances, it does not surprise us to hear of startlingly-attractive torpedo-style bodies in the construction and finish of which many Of the latest motorcar points are embodied. Those refinements of attraction, whilst adding to first cost by as much as £100 per body, should bring in many a new passenger. Order early and do not forget the body-work is advice which deserves to be followed.