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Carlton R. Mabley
October 27, 1907

Why the Foreign Car Has Been Popular and Its Influence Upon American Industry.


New York's Third Auto Show in December Will Be Restricted to Finest Types of European Machines.

By Carlton R. Mabley, Importers' Automobile Salon.

With the coming of the Importers' Automobile Salon, to be held at Madison Square Garden Dec. 28, we are practically celebrating the eighth anniversary of the importing business, and without making disagreeable comparisons, but still sticking to the truth, we may say that the first imported automobile was the first practical self-propelled vehicle that could be considered safe, sane, and usable for extensive passenger transportation; so we may add that the automobile industry as it exists to-day both abroad and here is the growth of one decade.  Just stop and think.  Less than ten years and we have in use alone in the United States, it is estimated, 150,000 automobiles.  Assuming the average carrying capacity can be five persons, we have a carrying capacity of 750,000 persons, of which about 100,000 are receiving a livelihood from the driving or operating of these cars, and the majority are using these vehicles in the place of trains, trolley cars, carriages, and bicycles-in fact, in preference to any other means of locomotion or transportation.  Undoubtedly the pleasure obtained in 70 per cent. of these cases is secondary to the actual service rendered in expediting the business of a great people in a safe and comfortable manner.

The part that the individual importer has played in bringing about the reliable iron traveling steed, controlled by the manipulation of one hand, and that can climb a mountain or move along in congested traffic has been more important than many, unfamiliar with the details of progress, have any idea.

In the year 1901 there was one concern importing cars into this country.  In 1902 there were two or three, and the total importations of machines of foreign make into this country up to that time would not have totaled fifty.  During 1903 there were several new and important agencies for foreign cars opened in New York, and the foreign car was then well established for American use.  In the year 1904 there were about 300 vehicles imported into this country by some ten or twelve importers.  It was in this year that the Importers' Automobile Salon was organized for the purpose of promoting and aiding the importations into the United States of the most improved and latest foreign models, and the first distinctly foreign car show was held in January, 1905, when twenty-five different makes were represented.

The business increased so largely that the importations during the year fairly astonished the American manufacturer.  The total importations in this year were about 900 machines, valued at $3,000,000, and in the following year, 1906, we have what may be termed the banner year for both the foreign and the American high-grade car.  The small single and double cylinder American cars, being considered in a class by themselves, supplying a demand in this country which was not sought by the foreign makers at all, the success of the foreign cars was directly due to their four-cylinder powerful engines, strong construction, reliability, and longevity of service.

The year 1906, which was the largest year and the best year for high-powered cars of both foreign and American makes, saw the importations reach the wonderful total of 1,500 cars, of a valuation of $4,500,000, or with duty and freight added, $7,000,000.  Up to and including this year we see now an approximate total of importations of 4,500 cars, during which period there have been manufactured 14,000 cars in this country that might be assumed to be cars in the same general category of class as those imported.  It will be seen, therefore, that the people who could afford to purchase cars at as high a price as these naturally were becoming pretty well supplied.

One feature of these superior quality cars was that it was unnecessary to purchase new ones every year as cars of this quality could be depended upon to do satisfactory service for a number of years.  On account of the uniform and more permanent designs, a decrease in both the importations of higher-priced machines and in the purchase of higher-powered American machines was to be looked for during the year 1907.  That this looked-for decrease was far smaller than might have been reasonably anticipated is shown by the fact that the importations up to Oct. 1 show 879 cars, indicating that the sale of high-grade cars will be very little curtailed this year, in spite of these conditions.

Whether or not there will be as many foreign cars sold in 1908 as in 1907, there is one thing pretty generally established and recognized to-day, and that is, as long as there is a good market for high-class, reliable goods, the imported car will hold its proportionate share of business.

Conditions of manufacture and importations are revising themselves.  The future supply will be in proportion to the demand made up of those who have not heretofore owned cars, of which there will be a goodly number every year, and a certain fair proportion of renewals or repurchases of new machines.  In supplying this demand, the imported car will receive its fair proportion of increasing supporters.  Many wise manufacturers have been studying the questions of natural supply and demand, and it may be fairly predicted that a selected and much better constructed line of both foreign and American cars will compete for the continued large demand for the best quality of machines ranging from $5,000 to $8,000.  This will necessitate some raising of prices by American manufacturers and a lowering of foreign car prices.

This article appeared in the October 27, 1907 edition of The New York Times

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