Go back to article: Adapting to the emergence of the automobile: a case study of Manchester coachbuilder Joseph Cockshoot and Co. 1896–1939
Relationship with manufacturers
The relationship between automobile manufacturer, coachbuilder and customer was complex, the coachbuilder acting as an intermediary between the manufacturer and the prospective customer. Cockshoot’s large established clientele of rich and upper-class carriage owners looking to purchase a motorcar would be an attractive proposition to a manufacturer seeking customers. Cockshoot, as the provider of the car body and as the agent for the manufacturer, would have been the first point of contact when there was a problem with the vehicle. Therefore it was not just the relationship between Cockshoot and its customers that had to be maintained. There was also the relationship between the newly emerging car manufacturers and Cockshoot, as the agent, that had to be established and built upon in order for both the growth and future survival of the new partnerships.
This becomes clear in the case of Mr R P Richards, who was sold a Rolls-Royce chassis and custom body by Cockshoot in 1911. Full correspondence survives between Cockshoot and Mr Richards and shows the level of customer support that Cockshoot gave, dealing with problems with the coachwork, creating bespoke solutions to mechanical issues, as well as offering to acquire new parts (Brooks, 1979, 08025-08059). Mr Richards’ motorcar body came with 36 personal specifications, including: a small folding table in the rear, a portable luggage grid at back with strappings, silk curtains with tassels, tool boxes under the steps, a generally light body, well sprung, with seats not too upright. Cockshoot also provided him with spares for his Renault, which was being taken by Cockshoot in exchange for his new Rolls-Royce. Richards thanked Cockshoot for writing to Rolls-Royce to press them for quick delivery of the chassis, for which Rolls-Royce could not guarantee delivery before Easter 1911. The car was finally ready for Mr Richards’ touring holiday on July 1911, the whole process lasting around six months. After delivery, a rattle developed which Cockshoot promised to rectify ‘we shall…either send out a man to do what is necessary, or better still to correct the fault here if you will drive it in some day’. Clear in the correspondence is the complexity of the work and the difficulty of dealing not only with bespoke orders but mechanical issues, after the sale.
After the short-lived agencies for American steam cars ended in 1903, Cockshoot struck up a good relationship with Renault that lasted several years. This relationship developed through personal contacts – the former Motor Department Manager Mr P Dobson left to work for Renault in London. It was this agency, and the custom body orders that came with it, that helped guarantee Cockshoot’s success before 1914. Brook’s analysis of motorcar bodies built shows that 36 of the 52 bodies built in 1906 were Renaults, and 78 out of 118 in 1907 (Brooks, 1979, 05008). However, this relationship ended around the time of the First World War, perhaps because Dobson left Renault to manufacture his own cars. A more lasting relationship was formed with Rolls-Royce, for whom Cockshoot would be local agents well into the middle of the century. While Rolls-Royce and Renault agencies fitted with Cockshoot’s upper-class clientele, after the First World War their relationship with mass car producer Morris was to be of more importance in a period that saw the rapid growth of automobile sales in the UK.
Once Cockshoot had decided to open the Motor Department in 1903 they were very quick to advertise their involvement in the automobile industry, both in local newspapers and in automobile trade journals such as The Autocar. Apart from J Walmsley of Preston, advertising as early as 1902, Cockshoot were the first North West coachbuilder to advertise in motoring journals (The Autocar, 1902). Interestingly, the firm continued to boldly associate with their carriage building history long after they had anything to do with carriages. For example, Figure 7, an advert from 1909, was printed after the final sale of carriage stock.
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Advert from the Manchester Courier 28 December 1909
Component DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15180/170803/008