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CAR ASSEMBLY

THREAT TO LOCAL INDUSTRY

SETBACK TO BRITISH PREFERENCE

BODY BUILDERS GO TO PEIME

MINISTEE.

Since it became known that the purchasers of between five and a quarter acres of Crown land at Petono were the firm of General Motors (N.Z.), Ltd., and that the intention of the company was to carry on car assembly work, some sections of the motor trade, and particularly the body-building trade, of the Dominion have been very much concerned, and to-day a large deputation representing the body builders o£ New Zealand waited upon the Prime Minister and the Minister of Customs (the Hon. W. Downie Stewart). In short, the suggestions which they put forward were:— Unassembled bodies to be asI sessed as motor bodies. Strict enforcement of the preferential rates and conditions. A stipulation that every three completed cars or bodies (assembled or unassembled) shall be accompanied by one chassis. The necessity for the enforcement of legislation passed for the suppression of trusts and combines .in the interests of secondary industries. i The protection, of the legitimate | British manufacturer against the use now being made of Canada by American importers to defeat Brit- , ish preference. ■ The deputation was introduced by Sir John ■ Luke, who said that the body.-building trade definitely feared I that the result of. the developments would be that the trade would be very seriously affected, that the old-style skilled builder would go out of business altogether, his place in the motor trade being taken by the unskilled worker who would simply put together manufactured parts. The president of' the New Zealand Coach and Motor Body Builders' Federation (Mr. H. Bates) spoke briefly, j emphasising that the deputation represented the employers in the trade throughout the Dominion. | UNSKILLED LABOUR ONLY. i Twenty-five years ago, said Mr. J. Spence Nicol, the coach-building trade was in a very sound position, and magnificent work was turned out by New Zealand's skilled craftsmen, but since then the trade had under-j gone a great change, brought about j when America gained what was practically a monopoly of the motor business.

New Zealand, he asserted, was at present being used for dumping purposes, and the new movement could only result in the combine getting as much as it could from New Zealand on one band, and in detriment to those who bad been in the coach or body-building trade for many years. For the now company to purchase 5} acres of land and to erect huge buildings upon it and thereafter to employ New Zealand craftsmen was all very nice, but he feared that that was not going to be the case- The American manufacturer would construct every part of the cars a,vp bodies, ana these would simply bo sent out to New Zealand for assembly by unskilled workers, men who could be picked up in the street at any time. There would be no place for the skilled man in assembly work. The employers were concerned because there were many young nieu for whom in a few years there would be no work. A great deal .of capital had been invested in the trade, and more was required if it was to expand, but now there was hesitation over the prospects of the industry. A number of the body builders had had to reduce their' Staffs by 30 40 per cent, during the last week because those controlling certain cars had for some reason not sent forward the chassis to which bodies were to be bUln'reply to Mr. Coates, Messrs. A Johnson and 0. L. Neilson, body builders of Ohristchurch and^Dannevirke, stated that that «i torn Mr Johnston further stated that 20 of those discharged were apprentices, and, th/tragh the actual body construction work could go ahead according to order, the chassis coming to hand eventually, it appeared that alter those orders there would be no more. TO DUMP CAES UPON NEW ZEALAND. Tie body builders would -welcome the combine if it was going to provide work for craftsmen, coni:nuctt Mr. Nicol, but they feared that the movement was the thin edge of a wedge to dump cais upon Now Zealand. The capital of the company was given out as £50,000, but only vostorday it was stated that the cost "of the buildings vnd equipment at Petone would be £100,000. Where was'that extra money to come from» '•■he Hon. Mr. Stewart: "We will pu*. on the dumping duty it they do that." THE TRADE IN AUSTRALIA. Tlie Australian Oovernment, «'oc-• tinued Mr. Nicol, had protected Australian industry much more effectively, and had laid it down that for every three cars imported ons chassis should bo imported. Mr. Coates remarked that car assembly was carried out in Australia. Mr. Johnson: "They are manufacturing their own bodies in Australia." Further reference to the development of the body-building industry in Australia was made by Mr. Nicol, who said that the Holden factory was the largest in the world; recently the General Motors combine had given that factory an order for 10,000 bodies, which meant a great sum spent in Australia in wages and material. Mr. Coates: "What is the object of this deputation? To protest against General Motors starting in this country?" "No; we are asking for protection for the industry. We aye asking that unassembled bodies should be assessed as motor bodies, for strict enforcement of the preferential rates and | conditions, and for a stipulation that every three complete cars or bodies, whether assembled or unassembled, shall be accompanied by one chassis." BRITISH PREFERENCE KNOCKED RIGHT OUT. General Motors, he continued, intended to tako full advantage of British grcfcroAc* by eitablisbiug

factories just over the border of Canada. The true British manufacturer, as far as British preference was concerned, was knocked right out. He referred to the system upon which the percentage of British material and value per car imported through Canada was computed, stating that certificates were prepared by inspectors in the employ of the manufacturers.

The Controller of Customs (Mr. G. Craig) remarked that he could not agree with that statement; the Customs Department had an independent source of information as an additional check.

Figures were then quoted by Mr. Nicol to show that the saving (packing, freight, and duty) in bringing a certain American car into New Zealand under the new policy over bringing it in assembled in the usual course would amount to £31 13s, and. that the American combine would perhaps save as much as £68,000 per annum in Customs payments. Amorican cars coming through Canada and assembled in New Zealand would show a saving in packing, freight, and duty of £22 over an imported British car, and, providing that the Customs conditions allowed Fords on unassembled cars were extended to General Motors, it would be seen that British preference was knocked to piecea. Mr. Downie Stewart remarked that even were it laid down that one chassis should be imported into New Zealand for every three cars, the company would presumably still place upon it one of their own bodies. Mr. Nicol: "I assume they would not be allowed to bring in a knockeddown body for that chassis. In th 9 assembling of such a body there is no work for the skilled men." FROM THE WORKERS' POINT OP VIEW. The point of view of the workers was put forward by Messrs. C. H. Chapman.(Wellington) and C. P. Garrigan (Canterbury). In the present instance, Mr. Chapman remarked, employers and employees certainly stood on common ground. Notwithstanding the vast number of motor vehicles which were imported into New Zealand, the body-building trade stood stationary, and now, they feared, openings and avenues were being further closed against them, for under the as-' sembly system work requiring skilled labour would be done before the machines reached New Zealand. A huge sum of money which should remain in New Zealand would be sent abroad, whereas the position should rather 'be that where there were 60 or 60 men employed in body-building work in New Zealand to-day there should be 250 or 260. . ; LOCAL INDUSTRY MUST BE SUPPORTED. Speaking as an industrialist, Mr. L; B. Partridge said there were two chief issues, support for local industry by protection and preference for British goods. The developments of General Motors were certainly going to be prejudicial to the British manufacturer, and the combine was not coming into New Zealand for ' the benefit of local industry, but to stifle local industry. This factory was to be established for the purpose of evading the Customs duties, and it was not going to give employment for the young men who were.being trained in the country's technical schools and collegei. LocalMndustry would b« choked, not fostered. The trade was powerless to protect itself; the Government only was in a position to give protection to local industry. 1 The English manufacturer was coming into the market with increasing success, and the American manufacturers realised that, and were out to . compete with the English ear by ' adopting the subterfuge of saying that their cars were built in New Zealand. The truly British car had gained upon the market recently, even though prices were higher, because there was a natural sentiment in favour of British goods, but the duty should be made such that the British car came into New Zealand with a true preferonce. FLOOD THE MARKET. Industrialists recognised, said Mr. F. Campbell, that they were powerless to stop the company from carrying out its plans. The company would flood the market with cars assembled by unskilled labour, and in ten years it would be impossible to find a skilled body-worker in New Zealand. The loopholes through which the American manufacturer gained his advantage were bringing in manufactured cars unassembled and bringing them through Canada as British cars.

STATEMENT BY MINISTER OF

CUSTOMS.

The Hon. W. Downie Stewart (Minister of Customs) said the only, point he wanted to, make before the Prime Minister replied, was that in listening to the representations of the deputation, the Government' had to take into account the fact that since they had been notified that the deputation was coming, they had received letters from a number of different organisations claiming the right to be heard before any final decision was,arrived at. Of course, the deputation would agree that that was right and proper. Proceeding, the Minister said that he noticed in the statement submitted by the deputation they quite frankly stated that they did not object to assembly works being established in New Zealand. What appeared to be in the mind of the deputation was the fear of.the bringing in of unassembled parts, and that by some means the Customs Department would be side-stepped. He had gone into the matter with the permanent head of the Customs Department and his officers, and they had perfectly clear ideas on that.; matter, both .as regard to the rato of duty and the mode of assessment. However, if the deputation had any criticisms to offer, he would be quite willing to listen to what they had to say. If it could Ge shown that the method of charging duty on the unassembled parts—whether on the bodies, the car, or the chassis—which was unfair or wrong, he would be quite willing to consider what was said. The Customs Department was fully alive to the importance of seeing that the unassembled parts coming in were charged a rate of duty on a fair and proper basis.

CUSTOMS INSPECTOR'S CERTI-

FICATES.

As to tho other point, with reference to preference, that was a much more difficult question. He did not gather that the deputation made any suggestion as to how that difficulty could be overcome. All he could say on behalf of the Customs Department was that it had every facility for ascertaining the factory cost and the position with regard to the unassembled parts, and the relative value as against that of the completed article —the difference in price in America. He thought the deputation would agree that if the matter

was discussed between representatives of the deputation and officers of the Customs Department, that would be a wise step to take. He thought that the ultimate, point the deputation ; was striving for was to get a higher ■ duty or a fixed duty on the bodies, and to have adopted here the system I in force in Australia of a percentage I of chassis coming in with the bodies. That was really the crux of the request of the deputation. That opened up a very difficult question.' In New Zealand they, had not adopted a policy of enforcing protection' by means of prohibition. They had tried a similar method with regard to flour, etc., from time to time, and it had not proved satisfactory. Ho flight state that he gathered from the Controller of Customs that some of the figures in the document submitted by the deputation regarding Aus.tralia and New Zealand were not correct. PRIME MINISTER'S REPLY. The Bight Hon. J. G. Coates, Prime Minister, said he did not propose at that stage to add anything to what the Hon. Mr. Downie Stewart had stated. He was pleased to meet the deputation, and he wanted to know what their troubles were. The Government had to, see.that the user got his vehicle at as cheap a price as possible. There were three points, two of which had been mentioned by" Mr. Partridge. As to the other point, he could not quite understand what was desired. Had it not, however, some bearing on the fact that wool, lamb, and mutton had gone down?

Mr. Harvey said the chassis were withheld. An'oTder was given for, say, a hundred bodies, but they reserved the right to supply the chassis as it suited their convenience, and that meant disorganisation. The Prime Minister: "How do you propose to overcome that?" : Mr. Harvey Teplied that provisici could be made that a certain number of chassis must be brought in. The Prime Minister asked.the deputation if they could supply particulars as to the different kinds of motor-car, country of origin, eti.l Mr. Harvey replied that such information would be supplied to the Government. • ■ . ■

The Prime Minister said he did not think there was anything further to discuss at the moment. The Government would have to look very carefully into the representations made. Mr. Downie Stewart was g>jng'to see other parties concerning the questions raised, and the Prime Minister thought the best course to take was to defer giving a reply until the Government heard from' all interested parties. ,

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Permanent link to this item

https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/EP19260129.2.85

Bibliographic details

CAR ASSEMBLY, Evening Post, Volume CXI, Issue 24, 29 January 1926

Word Count
2,415

CAR ASSEMBLY Evening Post, Volume CXI, Issue 24, 29 January 1926

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