LEAVES FROM THE INSPECTOR'S NOTEBOOK.
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Overseas Trade in Driblets. A Victory March Impression.
BOTHERED as we all are by production troubles at home, troubles having their genesis in the allembracing and opportunist endeavours of labour to make the inamediate.most of their opportunities, it is a little difficult for us to see eye to eye with those who are clamouring that we are sluggish and lethargic, in the pre-war manner, in the matter of tackling the trade of the overseas world. It is no pleasant information for us to have to listen ta tales of captured colonial markets, to recitals of Americans already well over the line after the pistol has been fired. And few of us are there but regret our inability to interfere as we increasingly become handicapped by swelling costs and diminishing outputs. The only consolation we can snatch, and poor enough an one it is, is that not only in Britain is labour blindly overloading the eaonomic balance of production with costs nearly im possible to support unless competition be eliminated.
At the moment our own trade has, and can have, more home orders than it knows what to do with, but eighteen months will see a different picture. We shall then actually want overseas orders—and so will labour.. And it may be too late. Canadian markets are all too well looked after already by the great Yankee neighbour. In the States there is no chance whatever for British-built lorries. In India we could, were we able, sell all the home-built machines we could dispatch at thepresent time. In S. Africa there is some market, but there, as in Australia, we are very gravely threatened by American competition. In our smaller colonies and dependencies there ale opportunities, but not of any very great dimensions.
Elsewhere all over, the world there are commercial motor vehicles to be sold wherever there are adequate highways, but a factor that has to be questioned is the desirability of planting one, two or half-a-dozen maeilinesin any given more or less remote district. Is it worth while either from the point of view of immediate conditions or from that of future developments? 8urely only the latter consideration is of any moment. Relatively small sales in isolated areas in South America, British Columbia, Italy, Sweden, and elsewhere, unless contracted with the considered intenticn of early and extensive development, are surely not worth while. If a concern is definitely out to cultivate a large market in a large way in the near or even in the more. distant future, then there is every reason for pioneer commencement. But I cannot imagine that the selling of a few isolated machines in a, given district abroad is likely to be attended with anything but high selling costs and 'difficulty of maintenance after the sales arneffected.
By all means, so soon as we can get our house in order here at home, let us tackle the practicable overseas markets before it is too late. But if we are only going to be able to place half-a-dozen of any one make, say, in the Malay Peninsula, in my humble opinion any firm is better without such a preoccupation. :Let us go for the world's markets—but, only when we can do so with the. idea of Capturing a very large share of them. I imagine it wouldllelp Foden's, for instance, very little to sell a, couple of five-tonners ra-i2 to anyone in Vladivostock, or AIbions a, solitary threetonner in Iquique. Yet conceivably such orders could be had just now if they were worth the seeking.
There is a temporary glamour about such an order and there may be some advertisement, but I imagine it is always after more or less of a nuisance—and very seldom -yields much net profit, all things taken into consideration. When there is reasonable chance of orders for hundreds, then it would be criminal to lose -any opportunity of development. But I, for one, should think twice about selling a solitary chassis to Timbucteo, under the delusion that I have done something at least in the cause -of Imperial tracle—I would sooner wait a while until I could see a reasonable prospect of future fleets of moment in Bombay or Melbourne with an outpost agency or depot to watch my interests there.
We shall know more about what is worth while overseas when the Society's Trade Commissioner— to say nothing of several other individual representatives—returns with his world report. But in the meantime it may after all be better to wipe off home arrears until at least we can do something more than nibble at Overseas markets. Lines of communication are costly connections and the incidence of such charges is excessive unless sales are proportionately plentiful or promising. Let us get into the overseas business in a very large way—if and whenever we do. We must—if we are to justify increased production OIL a maintained scale. Otherwise we must be satisfied with smaller things and then we will be well off without the worryof trivial overseas connection-s. This almost sounds heresy in these days of flag-vvaving—but to me at any rate it sounds commonsense.
A Victory March Impression.
It would surely be a bard task for anyone who was privileged -to witness that wonderful triumphal progress through the streets of the Metropolis a week or so ago to set down coherently what had most impressed him of the pageantry. Over and above the wonder of it all each and all of us who were spectators had borne in upon us new ideas of ail kinds. Is there not something, for instance, of remarkable significance in the relatively small part taken by that " noble animal" the horse in a display of such unexampled magnitude ? In old-time triumphal pageantry, the horse has always played lead. The war has been fought and won on foot, on the sea, in-the air, in the office—and by mechanical transport. The pare played by the horse, making all allowance for desert columns and such special duties, has mercifully enough been a relatively small one. Had it not been so, there would have been few, if any, horses left. And once again in the great Peace March mechanical transport took its share, from the ill-favoured Tank to the staff car. Surely this development, pressed on apace by the frenzied hurrying of nations striving for their lives, this displacement of animal haulage by mechanical substitutes has hardly yet properly impressed the public. Yet this intensive change-over, ahead of time by perhaps ten years, will tell its tale very plainly in our daily life henceforward—is telling its tale already in order books crowded untilAnext summer..