A-71968, AUGUST 28, 1936, 16 COMP. GEN. 190

A-71968: Aug 28, 1936

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THERE WAS RECEIVED FROM THE GENERAL MOTORS FLEET SALES CORPORATION. WHEREIN THERE IS APPARENTLY REVERSED THE POSITION TAKEN IN YOUR LETTER OF MARCH 31. YOU CONCLUDED IN RESPONSE TO OUR PROTEST THAT THE DEPARTMENT WAS IN ERROR IN THROWING OUT OUR BID OF CHEVROLET STANDARD AUTOMOBILE. IS NOT ADEQUATE FOR THE NEEDS OF THE GOVERNMENT FOR THE SERVICES TO BE PERFORMED.'. SETTING OUT CERTAIN MAJOR FEATURES ATTEMPTING TO SHOW THAT THE PLYMOUTH STANDARD IS SUPERIOR TO THE CHEVROLET STANDARD. IS OBVIOUSLY IN ERROR IN MANY RESPECTS. THE COMPARATIVE DATA ON THESE TWO MODELS FURNISHED YOU BY THE DEPARTMENT IS AS STATED. FROM THE DEPARTMENT'S LETTER IT WOULD APPEAR THAT THEY WOULD HAVE YOU BELIEVE THAT THE ROSS ROY ORGANIZATION WAS ENTIRELY DISINTERESTED IN THE TWO CARS IN QUESTION.

A-71968, AUGUST 28, 1936, 16 COMP. GEN. 190

ADMINISTRATIVE REPORTS - INSUFFICIENCY OF CERTAIN EQUIPMENT FOR GOVERNMENT NEEDS ADMINISTRATIVE REPORTS CONCERNING ALLEGED INSUFFICIENCIES OF CERTAIN EQUIPMENT FOR THE NEEDS OF THE GOVERNMENT AS OPPOSED TO OTHER EQUIPMENT ADMINISTRATIVELY DESIRED, OBVIOUSLY SHOULD NOT BE BASED UPON ADVERTISING MATTER--- THE "SALES TALK"--- OF THE MANUFACTURER OF THE DESIRED EQUIPMENT, BUT UPON AN IMPARTIAL FINDING OF FACTS, SUSTAINED BY EVIDENCE.

ACTING COMPTROLLER GENERAL ELLIOTT TO THE SECRETARY OF AGRICULTURE, AUGUST 28, 1936:

WITH FURTHER REFERENCE TO DECISIONS TO YOU OF MARCH 31, AND APRIL 28, 1936, THERE WAS RECEIVED FROM THE GENERAL MOTORS FLEET SALES CORPORATION, CHEVROLET DIVISION, WASHINGTON, D.C., A LETTER OF JUNE 2, 1936, AS FOLLOWS:

THERE HAS COME TO OUR ATTENTION YOUR LETTER OF APRIL 28, 1936, TO THE HONORABLE, THE SECRETARY OF AGRICULTURE, YOUR FILE NO. A-71968, WHEREIN THERE IS APPARENTLY REVERSED THE POSITION TAKEN IN YOUR LETTER OF MARCH 31, 1936, UNDER THE SAME FILE.

IN YOUR LETTER OF MARCH 31, 1936, YOU CONCLUDED IN RESPONSE TO OUR PROTEST THAT THE DEPARTMENT WAS IN ERROR IN THROWING OUT OUR BID OF CHEVROLET STANDARD AUTOMOBILE, AND IN AWARDING THE CONTRACT TO THE FARGO MOTOR CORPORATION ON PLYMOUTH STANDARD AUTOMOBILE--- FOR THE REASON THAT NO SHOWING HAD BEEN MADE,"THAT THE CHEVROLET STANDARD AUTOMOBILE OFFERED BY THE LOW BIDDER, IS NOT ADEQUATE FOR THE NEEDS OF THE GOVERNMENT FOR THE SERVICES TO BE PERFORMED.'

THE DEPARTMENT'S LETTER OF APRIL 13, 1936, SETTING OUT CERTAIN MAJOR FEATURES ATTEMPTING TO SHOW THAT THE PLYMOUTH STANDARD IS SUPERIOR TO THE CHEVROLET STANDARD, QUOTED BY YOU IN THE ABOVE REFERRED TO COMMUNICATION, IS OBVIOUSLY IN ERROR IN MANY RESPECTS.

THE COMPARATIVE DATA ON THESE TWO MODELS FURNISHED YOU BY THE DEPARTMENT IS AS STATED, TAKEN FROM THE ROSS ROY COMPARATIVE HANDBOOK. FROM THE DEPARTMENT'S LETTER IT WOULD APPEAR THAT THEY WOULD HAVE YOU BELIEVE THAT THE ROSS ROY ORGANIZATION WAS ENTIRELY DISINTERESTED IN THE TWO CARS IN QUESTION, WHICH IS NOT THE FACT. THE ROSS ROY COMPARATIVE HANDBOOK WHICH THE DEPARTMENT HAS ASKED YOU TO ACCEPT AS A BASIS OF COMPARISON IS A SUPPLEMENT TO THE PLYMOUTH CONFIDENTIAL DATA BOOK, A PLYMOUTH SALESMAN'S MANUAL, PUBLICATION IS BY THE ROSS ROY PUBLICATION SERVICE, INC., DETROIT, MICHIGAN, AND TO QUOTE FROM THAT PUBLICATION "IN COLLABORATION WITH THE ADVERTISING AND ENGINEERING DEPARTMENTS OF THE PLYMOUTH MOTOR CORPORATION.'

THE DEPARTMENT STRESSES IN PARTICULAR FOUR FEATURES FOR COMPARISON: NO. 1 --- ENGINE, NO. 2--- FRAME CONSTRUCTION; NO. 3--- BODY CONSTRUCTION; NO. 4 --- LENGTH OF SPRINGS. WE WOULD LIKE TO DISCUSS THESE IN THE ORDER NAMED:

FIRST. THAT THE DEPARTMENT ADMITS THAT THE MOTOR IN THE MASTER CHEVROLET IS AMPLE TO MEET ITS NEEDS. IT SEEMS SUFFICIENT ANSWER TO SAY THAT THE SAME MOTOR IS USED IN OUR STANDARD CHEVROLET AS IS USED IN THE MASTER, WITH SLIGHT DIFFERENT MANIFOLDING FOR SAKE OF ECONOMY IN OPERATION.

SECOND. YOU ARE ASKED TO BELIEVE THE FOLLOWING STATEMENT QUOTED FROM THE DEPARTMENT'S TTER,"OBVIOUSLY, THERE IS A GREAT DEAL MORE SUPPORT FROM THE X OR YK TYPE OF SUPPORTS THAN THERE IS FROM THE 3 BOX CROSS MEMBERS, AND THIS X OR YK TYPE OF CONSTRUCTION DEFINITELY SPELLS STURDINESS.' THE FOLLOWING IS QUOTED FROM THE ROSS ROY HANDBOOK AND IT IS PERTINENT TO NOTE THAT THE DEPARTMENT FAILS TO INCLUDE IN THEIR LETTER THIS QUOTATION,"LENGTHENING THE BOX SECTIONS IN THE NEW FRAME HAS CONTRIBUTED GREATLY TO ITS INCREASE IN STRENGTH, BECAUSE IT IS WELL KNOWN TO ENGINEERS THAT THE BOX SECTION DESIGN PRODUCES MAXIMUM RIGIDITY.' APPARENTLY, IF THE DEPARTMENT HAD QUOTED THE ROSS ROY FULL STATEMENT, THEY WOULD HAVE STATED OUR CONTENTIONS EXACTLY. THE FRAME OF THE 1936 STANDARD CHEVROLET IS OF THE BOX-GIRDER TYPE. FRAMES OF THIS TYPE HAVE LONG BEEN KNOWN BY ENGINEERS AS THE BEST FOR AUTOMOTIVE PURPOSES, FOR BOX SECTION STRUCTURAL MEMBERS RESIST BOTH TORSION AND BENDING TO A FAR GREATER EXTENT THAN MEMBERS EMPLOYING THE SAME AMOUNT OF METAL IN ANY OTHER FORM OF SECTION. FRAMES, SIMILAR IN DESIGN, HAVE ONLY BEEN USED HERETOFORE BY FOREIGN FIRMS MANUFACTURING HIGH PRICED CARS IN SMALL VOLUME. TWO YEARS AGO CHEVROLET ENGINEERS DETERMINED A FRAME OF THIS NATURE COULD BE MANUFACTURED IN LARGE VOLUME, AND AS A RESULT THEREOF IT WAS ADAPTED TO THE 1936 STANDARD PASSENGER CAR. THERE ARE APPROXIMATELY 700 STRUCTURAL WELDS AND 600 STRUCTURAL RIVETS IN THIS FRAME ASSEMBLY. IT IS ONE FOOT LONGER AND WIDER, BUT ONLY FIVE POUNDS HEAVIER THAN THE FRAME PREVIOUSLY USED. IT IS 12 PERCENT MORE RIGID TORSIONABLY AND 20 PERCENT MORE RIGID AS A BEAM THAN THE X TYPE FRAME PREVIOUSLY USED IN STANDARD CARS. TO SAY THAT THE FRAME IS INFERIOR TO THAT USED IN THE PLYMOUTH P1 IS DECIDEDLY CONTRARY TO THE FACT.

THIRD. PAGE TWO, UNDER ITEM 6, BODY TYPE, PLYMOUTH P1 IS GIVEN AS "SAFETY STEEL," CHEVROLET STANDARD,"COMPOSIVE.' THIS STATEMENT IS ABSOLUTELY INCORRECT. IT WOULD TAKE LITTLE TECHNICAL KNOWLEDGE TO DETERMINE FROM THE ATTACHED ACTUAL PHOTOGRAPHS THAT THE CHEVROLET BODY IS MORE NEARLY AN ALL- STEEL BODY, AND SUPERIOR FROM A SAFETY STANDPOINT TO THAT OF THE PLYMOUTH. THE CHEVROLET BODY HAS AN ALL-METAL FRAME FLOOR, PLYMOUTH BODY FRAME FLOOR IS OF WOOD. THE CHEVROLET TOP IS ONE SOLID PIECE OF STEEL, SUPPORTED BY STEEL GIRDERS CONNECTING THE SIDE RAILS. THE PLYMOUTH TOP, AS SHOWN IN PHOTOGRAPH NO. 5, HAS WOODEN GIRDERS, CHICKEN WIRE, FELT--- COMPOSITION TEXTILE TOP WHICH AFFORDS ABSOLUTELY NO PROTECTION, OTHER THAN FROM WEATHER.

FOURTH. THE DEPARTMENT STATES CHEVROLET STANDARD HAS A 36 INCH FRONT SPRING AS COMPARED WITH THE PLYMOUTH P1 OF 38 INCHES, AND THAT THE REAR SPRING IS 49 INCHES ON THE STANDARD CHEVROLET AS COMPARED WITH 53 AND 5/8 INCHES ON THE PLYMOUTH. THE LENGTH OF SPRINGS HAS VERY LITTLE TO DO WITH DURABILITY THEREOF. THE ROSS ROY, WHICH THE DEPARTMENT USES AS A GUIDE, BASES ITS CONCLUSION ON THE LENGTH OF THE SPRING PASSING OVER SUCH FACTORS AS WIDTH, THICKNESS, AND NUMBER OF LEAVES. THE CHEVROLET SPRING IS DESIGNED TO TAKE BRAKE TORQUE, IN WHICH CASE THE SHORTER ONE IS MORE EFFECTIVE; THAT IS WHY THE PLYMOUTH NEEDS DOUBLE-ACTING SHOCK ABSORBERS, CHEVROLET OBTAINING THE SAME RESULT WITH SINGLE-ACTING SHOCK ABSORBERS.

WE BELIEVE THAT THE ABOVE CONCLUSIVELY ANSWERS THE FOUR MAIN CONTENTIONS OF THE DEPARTMENT. WE CERTAINLY DO NOT AGREE IN ANY PARTICULAR WITH THE CONCLUSIONS OF THE DEPARTMENT THAT THE CHEVROLET STANDARD WILL NOT MEET THE REQUIREMENTS OF THE SERVICE, AS TO DURABILITY OR PERFORMANCE THAT THEY ARE GETTING IN EITHER THE FORD OR THE PLYMOUTH STANDARD AUTOMOBILES.

IN FURTHER SUPPORT OF OUR POSITION, WE ARE ATTACHING HERETO DATA COMPILED BY OUR ENGINEERS, WHO ARE NOT SALESMEN, WHICH SHOWS ADDITIONAL FEATURES NOT ADVANCED BY THE DEPARTMENT, IN WHICH THE STANDARD CHEVROLET IS SUPERIOR TO EITHER OF THE OTHER TWO MODELS IN QUESTION.

WE APOLOGIZE FOR THE LENGTH OF THIS COMMUNICATION, BUT FEEL THAT YOUR OFFICE DID NOT HAVE ALL THE FACTS WHEN YOUR DECISION OF APRIL 28, 1936.

WE FEEL, AS PREVIOUSLY STATED, THAT THE CHEVROLET STANDARD HAS EVERYTHING IN THE WAY OF PERFORMANCE AND DURABILITY, THAT IS REQUIRED TO MEET ANYTHING PRODUCED BY COMPETITORS IN THE LOW-PRICE FIELD, AND IF THE DEPARTMENT'S NEEDS FOR SERVICE LIES ABOVE THOSE FOR WHICH THAT CLASS IS ADAPTABLE, THEY CAN ONLY BE MET BY CARS IN A HIGHER-PRICE CLASS.

IF THE STATEMENTS IN THIS LETTER ARE CORRECT, IT APPEARS THAT THE TABULATED COMPARISON BETWEEN THE CHEVROLET STANDARD AND PLYMOUTH BUSINESS SIX P-1 AUTOMOBILES APPEARING IN YOUR LETTER OF APRIL 13, 1936, WAS TAKEN IN LARGE MEASURE FROM A COMPARATIVE HANDBOOK PUBLISHED AS ADVERTISING MATTER FOR THE PLYMOUTH AUTOMOBILE FOR THE PURPOSE OF EXPLOITING SUCH FEATURES AS ITS MANUFACTURER CONSIDERED GOOD SELLING POINTS AT THE EXPENSE OF ITS RECOGNIZED CLASS COMPETITORS, AND IT IS INDICATED THAT NOT EVEN THE MATTER APPEARING IN THIS ADVERTISING MEDIUM WAS FAIRLY QUOTED. SUCH A PUBLICATION NATURALLY WOULD EMPHASIZE DIFFERENCES OF A MINOR CHARACTER WHICH MAY OR MAY NOT REFLECT SLIGHT SUPERIORITIES OF THE ONE VEHICLE OVER THE OTHER SO FAR AS ACTUAL PERFORMANCE VALUE IS CONCERNED. IT COULD NOT FAIRLY BE CONSIDERED A DISINTERESTED DOCUMENT PROPER FOR USE IN FORMULATING AN ADMINISTRATIVE REPORT ON MATTERS AFFECTING THE INTERESTS OF THE GOVERNMENT AND THE APPLICATION OF STATUTORY REQUIREMENTS. WHERE THE SUITABILITY OF EQUIPMENT FOR THE NEEDS OF THE GOVERNMENT IS IN QUESTION, SUCH REPORTS SHOULD STATE FACTS ESTABLISHING ACTUAL DEFICIENCIES OF THE EQUIPMENT CONCERNED--- AN IMPARTIAL FINDING OF FACTS, SUSTAINED BY EVIDENCE--- OF ITS INSUFFICIENCY FOR THE NEEDS OF THE GOVERNMENT IN THE PARTICULAR CASE. IT WOULD SEEM TO BE READILY APPARENT THAT THE ADVERTISING MATTER--- THE "SALES TALK"--- OF A MANUFACTURER, WHICH IS, OF COURSE, EX PARTE MATTER, SHOULD NOT BE RESORTED TO IN ORDER TO SUPPORT AN ADMINISTRATIVE PREFERENCE FOR HIS PRODUCT AS COMPARED WITH ANOTHER. POINTED OUT IN THE DECISION OF APRIL 28, 1936, THE MATTER FOR CONSIDERATION IN THE USES OF APPROPRIATIONS IS THE SUFFICIENCY OF THE LOWER-PRICED CAR FOR THE ACTUAL NEEDS OF THE GOVERNMENT, WHICH IS DEPENDENT UPON ITS OWN CONSTRUCTION AND NOT UPON THE POSSIBLE SUPERIORITIES OF OTHER AUTOMOBILES.

THE GENERAL MOTORS FLEET SALES CORPORATION FORWARDED WITH ITS LETTER, SUPRA, AN ITEMIZED COMPARISON OF THE CHEVROLET STANDARD, THE PLYMOUTH BUSINESS SIX P-1, AND THE FORD STANDARD, COVERING 81 ITEMS OF CONSTRUCTION AND EQUIPMENT. IT IS NOT NECESSARY TO DETAIL THOSE ITEMS HERE. SUFFICE IT TO SAY THAT THE LIST DOES NOT APPEAR TO DISCLOSE ANY MATERIAL SUPERIORITY OF ANY ONE OF THE VEHICLES OVER EITHER OF THE OTHER TWO. WHILE IT APPEARS THAT THE PLYMOUTH AND FORD HAVE LONGER WHEEL BASES, AND GREATER OVER-ALL LENGTH, IT IS TO BE OBSERVED THAT THE ONLY CLAIM MADE FOR THESE FEATURES BY THE ROSS ROY COMPARISON IS THAT THEY GIVE A BETTER AND "MORE IMPRESSIVE" APPEARANCE, GREATER LEG ROOM, AND GREATER COMFORT. NOT ONLY MAY SUCH CLAIMS BE OPEN TO DIFFERENCES OF OPINION, BUT EVEN IF CONCEDED, IT IS MANIFEST THAT THEY ADD NOTHING TO THE STURDINESS OR SUFFICIENCY OF THE VEHICLE. OTHER ITEMS OF COMPARISON DISCLOSE LITTLE MORE THAN SUPERFICIAL DIFFERENCES IN CONSTRUCTION SOME OF WHICH POSSIBLY FAVOR ONE AUTOMOBILE OF THE GROUP WHILE OTHERS FAVOR ANOTHER.

NEITHER THE ROSS ROY HANDBOOK OF THE PLYMOUTH MOTOR CORPORATION, NOR THE COMPARISON FURNISHED BY THE GENERAL MOTORS FLEET SALES CORPORATION IS FOR ACCEPTANCE WITHOUT QUESTION AS DETERMINING THE SUFFICIENCY OF ONE CAR FOR THE NEEDS OF THE GOVERNMENT AS COMPARED WITH OTHERS.

SINCE IT APPEARS THAT THE ADMINISTRATIVE REPORT TO THIS OFFICE IN THE PRESENT INSTANCE WAS NOT ENTIRELY DISINTERESTED, THE MATTER IS BROUGHT TO YOUR ATTENTION IN THE HOPE THAT ADMINISTRATIVE ACTION WILL BE TAKEN TO SEE THAT REPORTS FURNISHED THIS OFFICE IN THE FUTURE BE BASED UPON A FULL DISCLOSURE OF THE FACTS OBTAINED FROM IMPARTIAL SOURCES.

THE LETTER OF GENERAL MOTORS FLEET SALES CORPORATION INDICATES A MISINTERPRETATION OF THE CITED DECISION TO YOU OF APRIL 28, 1936, WHICH POSSIBLY MAY BE SHARED BY YOUR DEPARTMENT. THAT DECISION DID NOT REVERSE THE DECISION OF MARCH 31, 1936, NEITHER DID IT MODIFY THE DECISION OF MARCH 31, EXCEPT INSOFAR AS THE USE OF APPROPRIATED MONEYS IN THAT PARTICULAR INSTANCE WAS CONCERNED. IT WAS PLAINLY STATED IN THE LATER DECISION THAT---

* * * WHILE IN THIS INSTANCE THIS OFFICE WILL MAKE NO FURTHER OBJECTION TO OTHERWISE PROPER PAYMENTS UNDER THE CONTRACT AS AWARDED, THE SPECIFICATIONS WERE CLEARLY IMPROPER, AS HERETOFORE POINTED OUT IN NUMEROUS DECISIONS OF THIS OFFICE, UNFAIR TO BIDDERS AND UNDULY RESTRICTIVE OF COMPETITION, AND THE ADMINISTRATIVE PROCEDURE WITH RESPECT TO FUTURE PURCHASES MUST BE DULY ADJUSTED OR APPROPRIATIONS ATTEMPTED TO BE CHARGED WILL NOT BECOME LEGALLY OBLIGATED.

IN OTHER WORDS, WHILE OBJECTION WAS WITHDRAWN TO PAYMENTS UNDER THE CONTRACT THERE CONSIDERED, THE DECISION WAS IN NO SENSE TO BE CONSTRUED AS APPROVAL OF THE RESTRICTIVE SPECIFICATIONS INVOLVED OR THE REJECTION OF THE LOW BID IN THAT INSTANCE, OR AS AUTHORITY FOR THE USE OF SUCH RESTRICTIVE SPECIFICATIONS IN THE FUTURE. THERE ARE TO BE COMPLIED WITH, THE DECISIONS OF THIS OFFICE TO THE EFFECT THAT NO ARBITRARY SPECIFICATIONS AS TO WEIGHT, WHEELBASE, OR OTHER REQUIREMENTS MAY BE USED FOR THE PURPOSE OF EXCLUDING FROM COMPETITION A PARTICULAR CAR OR CARS IN THE SAME RECOGNIZED COMPETITIVE GROUP, OR TO GRATIFY AN ADMINISTRATIVE PREFERENCE FOR ANY ONE OR MORE AUTOMOBILES IN SUCH GROUP AT THE EXPENSE OF THE GOVERNMENT. 13 COMP. GEN. 284; 14 COMP. GEN. 360, 491, 518, 832; 15 COMP. GEN. 974, 1085, AND 1103. SEE ALSO IN THIS CONNECTION A-66914, JULY 18, 1936, 16 COMP. GEN. 38.