SOUTH AMERICA AS A MARKET.
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The Development of the Use of Commercial Motor Vehicles in the Different Republics and the Growth of the Roads.
(By a Special Correspondent.)
HE demand for commercial motor vehicles in 1. Argentina has experienced a remarkable increase. In 1924 the total imports amounted to 651 vehicles. The imports for the first seven months of 1925 (the latest figures available) were no fewer than 4,496, of which 4,000 were Fords, 307 other American makes, and 189 of European origin.
The demand is practically confined to motor lorry chassis, as bodies are generally built locally. The motor vehicle as a means of transport is rapidly gaining in public favour, and large numbers of chassis have been converted into buses. The general prospects indicate an even greater demand.
The actual extent to which Britain is participating in this comparatively new demand is sufficiently indicated by the fact that out of the total commercial vehicle imports into Argentina during the first seven months of 1925 (see above) precisely 5 lorries and 43 chassis were contributed by British makers.
In the tyre trade competition is keen, and there is no sign of a diminution in sales. The principal suppliers at present are the United States, Great Britain, Germany, Italy and France.
A feature of the trade is the greatly increased • demand for pneumatic tyres of the type suitable for motor omnibuses. This is due to the remarkable increase, forecasted in these columns last year, of motor passenger services in Buenos Aires. Although road conditions are not yet all they are intended to be, there is an increase in the imports of commercial motor vehicles fitted with solid tyres. Prospects in the tyre trade are good—particularly in view of the extensive road improvements that are steadily being effected.
Motor omnibus services in Buenos Aires, although they have greatly increased in number, are still in the same state of chaos as obtained early last year. Regulations have been submitted to the municipality but have not yet been approved.
Generally speaking, the demand in Chile for commercial motor vehicles is on the increase. The United States holds the bulk of the trade, with Germany, Italy, Aus tria, France Switzerland as second-best competitors. Britain's contribution, as heretofore, is negligible.
An important development has taken place in the nitrate industry. Mechanical road transport is now being applied, instead of mule carts, for transport between the workings and the treatment plants. There is one nitrate company that
has used half a dozen or ad petrol trucks of five tons capacity with conspicuous success. It is worthy of note that results have demonstrated that one truck can take the place of 30 mules and 5 carts.
In Santiago there are already over a thousand motor omnibuses on the streets, whilst commercial motor vehicles in general are steadily growing in favour.
Although the United States has held and still holds the greater part of the trade in the Chilean market, signs are not wanting that British makers are awaking to possibilities. At least one British manufacturer is contemplating seriously the question of a specially designed lorry for use on the nitrate deserts in the Antofagasta region. This lorry will be fitted with wheels and tyres adapted to the loose, gritty surface and with a reinforced chassis calculated to stand the vibration resulting from continual work on what is a roadless wilderness of sand.
The market for commercial motor vehicles in Peru is steadily increasing. During the past 12 months the • number in use in the Republic has doubled. According to the latest estimates, there are about 3,000 vehicles being used at present, the big majority of which has emanated from the United States. It should be noted that this year Peru has held its first motor show. The class of vehicle mainly in demand is that having a small load capacity—less than a ton in most cases. A British maker has established representation there during the past 12 months.
A matter of the utmost interest to British manufacturers is the immense progress in road improvement discernable in all the principal Republics. A comprehensive scheme of road construction is being carried out in Peru where no fewer than 105 new highways are under construction. It is estimated that by the end of November next 4,000 miles of new roads will have been completed. These roads will be of macadam or concrete and highly suitable for motor traffic. When one of the roads which stretches from Lima to the northern boundary, a distance of over 600 miles, is completed, it will be one of the finest motoring roads in the world.
In Bolivia also there is considerable activity in road construction. Hitherto lack of good roads has proved a great obstacle to the development of the tremendous resources of the country. The new roads which are being built for motor traffic will do much to speed up the Republic's future development. Altogether about 2,000 miles of new roads are coming into existence.
Road construction is proceeding apace in Brazil, and the demand for motor transport is increasing accordingly, but the supply is being met chiefly by United States manufacturers. Nevertheless, it is a fact that Brazilian buyers favour British makes so long as the price is not absolutely prohibitive and so long as an adequate spare-part" depot is maintainedIt should be noted also that American manufacturers extend very generous credit terms and supply a very efficient service to all buyers.
To sum up, the position in most South American Re
publics to-day is one of increasing construction of roads, with a consequent growing demand for commercial motor vehMes, together with an awakening interest in public motor passenger services. The demand is still being met principally by the United States.
If it be quite impossible for individual British makers to compete upon a basis of price, it is at least possible to compete upon a basis of quality. But the markets and their peculiar requirements must be studied, adequate propaganda must be maintained, thoroughly efficient spare-part depots must be established in principal centres and fairly lengthy credit terms granted after judicious inquiry has been made. One can understand that a Latin buyer, even though he may believe that a British car represents the last word in motor construction, prefers to go to an American showroom and take his car or lorry away with him, rather than to seek out a British agent and to wait weeks for delivery, more especially as, even after delivery has been made, spare parts are some thousands of miles away.