Daimler: 1897 Extraordinary General meeting
Note: This is a sub-section of Daimler
Daimler Motor Company. 
AN extraordinary general meeting of the Daimler Motor Company (Limited) was held on the 4th inst. at the Motor Mills, Coventry, for the purpose of making certain alterations in the articles of association, chiefly those required by the Stock Exchange Committee, with a view to an official quotation of the shares. Mr. Harry J. Lawson, the Chairman of the Company, presided. Previously a large number of shareholders were shown over the works, and inspected the extensive machinery with which the buildings are equipped.
Mr. J. J. H. STURMEY (Director) said he had been deputed by his colleagues to lay a few facts before the shareholders in reference to their undertaking. If they were to believe the statements which had been made about the Company by a certain newspaper, they would conclude that the Company was a ghastly failure; but he thought that after what they had seen that day in going over the works, and when he had stated the position of the Company, they would agree with him that the criticism he had referred to had been made with absolutely no knowledge of the facts.
It was true that the shares had gone down on the market, but market prices were regulated by supply and demand, and, as a result of the attacks, there had been but few buyers apart from the directors themselves. It would be a consolation to the shareholders to know that not only had the directors not sold a single share, but they had, he believed, in every instance largely increased their holdings. (Hear, hear:) That should prove to the shareholders that, at any rate, the directors believed in the Company. He honestly believed in it himself, and he hoped to have a still larger holding before he was finished with it.
It was necessary that he should look a little into the history of this Company, in order to show them some of the trials and tribulations they had had; and in doing so he was practically giving them the history of every other company of the kind in the kingdom.
He believed this Company was at least six months ahead of any other company in the country. It had been formed just over a year, having been registered in February, 1896. Those who had had experience in such matters knew that it was impossible for a company to begin work immediately it was formed. An entirely new company, having to establish a new business, had many things to consider. The first week or two was occupied in legal preliminaries, the allotment of shares, completion of contracts, and so on. The directors were also handicapped from the fact that they had to learn this business themselves, and their first study had been to gain full information about the industry.
They went to Paris, where they inspected the Daimler works of MM. Panhard and Levassor, and MM. Peugeot Freres, and were also shown over the works of the Count de Dion and Bouton, and other auto-car manufactories, by which means they got a very fair idea of what was required of an autocar company.
They then took a journey to Germany, and inspected the works of the Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft, near Stuttgart, the parent company of all the Daimler concerns, and where Herr Daimler was in charge. The knowledge they thus gained had proved very useful to them, and they were more convinced than ever that they had the best motor for horseless carriages in existence.
When they got back they looked about with a view to purchasing works, and by a lucky fluke the magnificent works they were now in came into the market, and were offered them on what they considered reasonable terms. They purchased the works in April, and proceeded to organise a staff. It was impossible to find a man who was used to the trade; but they looked about for a thoroughly practical and scientific engineer. They were fortunate in securing the services of Mr. J. C. Critchley, of Bradford, and that gentleman had worked most assiduously in the interests of the Company. Moreover, they had gradually built up a staff which was second to none in the autocar world, amongst them being one or two who had occupied prominent positions in the German works for some two years.
Their next duty had been to obtain machinery. All these industries had been during the past year exceedingly busy, and the result had been that the makers of machine tools had been equally busy; so that there was great delay in the execution of their orders. However, they had now got pretty well organised, and equipped the factory with most of the tools. Mr. Sturmey proceeded to detail further changes which arose in connection with the designs and drawings.
Then they were disappointed in the matter of the delivery of cars from Paris. Two cars were to be delivered every until September, when six were to be delivered. As a matter of fact, they got nothing until September, when two cars were received. They had not received one since. As soon as they found they were relying on broken reeds they set to work and built four carriages on experimental lines, but there were further delays in obtaining castings.
They had now not only completed their factory, but finished the first of their commercial carriages, which shareholders had seen that day. They were very well satisfied with their first efforts (Hear, hear.) They had started building them with a view to a regular supply, and had now completed in their works nearly all the parts and fittings for 50 carriages. To-day they had work in hand for a regular output of motor-cars; so that, practically speaking, the actual work of the Company, so far as trading was concerned, commenced from now.
In addition to motor-cars, they were making motors for stationary purposes, and also for launch building. They supplied about 35 launch motors last year. That was fairly satisfactory, but now they were started on a regular output from the factory. He believed their capacity would lie something like 250 carriages this year. If they could increase it they would do so but they were already cramped for space. They were commencing work at once for the extension of the factory, specially with a view to the building of the carriages and frames, which was a very bulky business. When they got that at work, in six or eight weeks' time, they expected to nearly double their weekly output of complete carriages.
So far as their business prospects were concerned, he had not the slightest doubt they could sell three times the number of cars they could produce. They had actually on order between 200 and 300 motors, frames, and carriages, and had a contract with a firm in the north of Scotland for 50, amounting to about £13,000; that was for a part of the frames and carriages.
He might mention, too, that they had not really looked for orders; but the secretary had something like 10,000 applications for catalogues and prices and particulars of their motors, with a view to purchase. They were first in the business to-day and hoped to keep in that position. (Applause.)
With regard to the financial position, they would remember that the Company was started with a capital of £100,000. Statements had been made that the capital was not subscribed, but they were incorrect. The actual amount of capital subscribed was in the neighbourhood of £110,000; consequently they had to return about £10,000. Having got all their capital, they were pledged to £40,000 for the licenses. That was certainly a large sum, but he ventured to assert that even if the patents were not worth a cent - which he did not believe for a moment — he considered that the position they were in, of being six months ahead of any other company, was worth every penny of the money; it was equivalent to buying a goodwill.
Although the directors had been greatly delayed in actual trading, they had been looking after the interest of the Company in other ways. They purchased the mills — the estate covered 12.5 acres of ground — and had sold the four-storied building close by these works for more money than they gave for the whole estate. (Applause.) He thought that was something to begin with, and showed that the directors had not been unmindful of the interests of the shareholders. (Hear, hear.) They had a factory which had been valued it £8,500. They had in addition some 10 acres of unoccupied ground, the ground rent of which was more than covered by rents received, and that, taken at a low estimate, should be worth another £2,500. That simile £11,000 clear profit in the assets of the . . . .
Sources of Information
- The Automotor Journal of 17th March 1897