News Really Matters to Automobilists*

Apparently everybody likes our occasional Germany vs Australia jousts, so here’s anothery.

Karl Benz patented the world’s first car in 1886 and his Motorwagens rolled off the Mannheim production line in 1893. In 1903 Germany’s automobile association ADAC was established in Stuttgart, and our equivalent NRMA was only set up in 1920, so first point to Germany.

But in 1921 the NRMA published its first magazine, known as Open Road. ADAC’s monthly Motorwelt only started in 1925, so second goal to Australia. It may be explained by the original NRMA mission, which was advocacy for more road funding, whereas ADAC offered roadside assistance from the outset? 

Eventually other Australian state motoring associations published their own member magazines, and their total combined circulation is about 4 million today, which represents about 15.6% of the country’s population. In comparison, Germany has 13.8m for Motorwelt, 16.3% of the population. Both country figures are impressive, so let’s call it a draw!

Actually, that irrelevant introduction was just a sideline to the main point of this story, which is the amazing photo below taken from a 1955 Open Road and reproduced in their 100 years anniversary edition. Check the photo caption. 

Accompanying 1955 text explains that the monthly journal involves wrapping and posting a quarter of a million copies, making it ‘the largest regular item of newspaper bulk postage in the Commonwealth, both in weight and as to number of copies’. But equally impressive is the description of the team at work:

“Specialists pictured in the team are a lady who pastes the ends of the wrappers, the girl employed solely to make morning and afternoon tea, and the man who brings supplies of papers to the tables and carries completed bags…..work which, although done at speed, is performed also with care, since a keen reader dislikes a poorly wrapped journal”.

“The mountain of papers comes to the wrapping hall on the Monday. By the Friday at 4 pm the 250,000 copies – weighing about 18 tons – are all in the post. It is an effort requiring organisation and knowhow – and the usual NRMA spirit of service.”

Now, do the math (as Americans say): that means 20 women each wrapped 2,500 papers every day for a week. Can you get RSI in a week? The tea ‘girl’ gig sounds more reasonable, although she probably had lots of washing up between morning and afternoon tea breaks.

NRMA’s unashamedly proud presentation of its 1955 panegyric, without any hint of a mea culpa for those stereotypical, robotic working conditions, is a worry in these more enlightened times.

By the way, Australia has 823,000 kms of public roads, 356,000 paved and 466,000 unpaved, against Germany’s total of 230,000. You call that a road network? This is a road network! Sorry again Germany, that’s not even a contest. Australia wins by 593,000 kms.

*NRMA

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