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By the time you read this, there will be only 21 shoplifting days until Christmas — and, for those intending to buy me something nice, my favourite colour is ‘power pink with whitewall tyres’! Just kidding, as I’d rather have my earthquake-damaged house sorted, but I’m not complaining, as there are many more people who are worse off than us, but hey! It’s only been just over six years!
This month, I want to comment on the use of (or that should read ‘misuse of’) statistics. Regular readers will have noted that I have previously commented on matters of road safety and, in particular, the crash statistics involving overseas drivers, or foreign licence holders. If you can believe the reports emanating from some of the authorities, those make up only a small proportion of the total number of crashes (around six per cent). In an effort to protect the tourism industry, these ‘authorities’ tend to avoid clarifying said statistics and (for example) mention specifically that in the West Coast / Southland regions, particularly, this percentage climbs to between 25 and 33 per cent. Excuse me? Whipping my shoes and socks off for one minute, that’s a staggering one-quarter to one-third of all crashes! And that’s not a problem which needs addressing? It might be my imagination, but why have police (particularly down south) been instructed to clam up about whether the drivers involved were foreign licence holders? If the crash rate was dropping, I would have thought that the reducing statistics would be being promulgated from the highest megaphone/speaker to anyone who wants to listen. But no, the lid is being carefully kept tightly in place on this information — which is understandable, since our whole economy is based on the tourist dollar.
And I have previously advised through this column that there are many electronic devices available that could be used to advantage, such as the gadget that alerts the driver to the fact they have crossed the centre line. However, not wanting to pour cold water on that particular gadget, I would have to say that the effectiveness of this would depend on the language being used, and the language of the driver. It’s not going to be much use if the car’s audio blurts out, ‘Oi! You’re on the wrong side of the road, dummy!’ if the driver’s first language is not English. And there would be no point in the device rattling off all the warnings in the various languages, as by the time the correct one was broadcast, the device may well have been rendered useless by a head-on crash!
During my recent adventures looking for another vehicle, I discovered that in one car that was originally intended for the local Japanese market, there was this lovely Japanese lady who spoke every time I turned on the key, selected reverse, or forgot to fasten my seatbelt. I’ve no idea what she was saying, and every time I tried to entice a young Japanese lady into the car to translate for me they would run off screaming and yelling!
Another area of statistics that often gets misused is that concerning car registrations. More often than not, there will be a press release from one or more sectors of the car industry that is clearly intended to con us into buying another vehicle — because everyone else is! For example, in telling us about how many new Toyota Rav4s were sold, we learned that the figure was 2230. But, seemingly, some 757 of those were sold to rental companies. That’s just over one-third. Remembering, too, that the last time I checked, only around eight to 13 per cent of new car sales were to private buyers. The remainder is sold variously to rental companies, businesses, and leasing companies.
The number-one-selling new vehicle (according to Motor Industry Association figures) is a ute, with some 5646 registrations so far this year. Apparently, the Christchurch rebuild is going well, with many utility vehicles being sold to the building industry, but there was no mention of this in the articles that I have been reading. Post the September 2010 earthquake, there was a massive increase in four-wheel drive and ute sales to rebuild companies, as evidenced by the lines of them parked in central Christchurch, right down to their sequential registration numbers.
When I put my trusty Mitsubishi Chariot in for its WOF, I was offered a test drive of some new fang-dangled Mitsubishi while I was waiting. I declined, of course, because I have no intention of ever buying a brand-new vehicle that would incur a massive price reduction as I drove out of the car lot. Businesses and rental companies can, of course, as they can claim depreciation each year to offset the drop in capital value over time. My old work’s Ford Mondeo, which I drove out of the showroom brand new, was eventually retired from the company fleet, whereupon I went to the auction and bought it. No point in wasting all those company dollars spent on (mostly) unnecessary maintenance while it was in my care.
The only statistic that I am really interested in is the average age of the nation’s vehicle fleet, which is now just over 14 years. As I have said on several previous occasions, the car industry would very much like us to turn over our cars (as in, sell them) every five years. For the past 10 years or so, my main intention in life has been to reintroduce mainly old motorcycles back into fleet. When I started out, the average age of New Zealand’s vehicle fleet was about 11 years. Now, it is just over 14 years, so clearly there are more people like me out there who would rather put something older back on the road than pour all their hard-earned folding stuff into a new vehicle. Long may that continue!
Which brings me to my final comment. Apparently (according to statistics), there has been a ‘rapidly accelerating trend’ worldwide towards car sharing. This is a system whereby motorists rent vehicles for short periods of time instead of actually owning them. Really? Again, supposedly, there are now more than 2 million motorists involved in car sharing. In case you didn’t realize it, there has been a car-sharing system in operation here in New Zealand for many years. The main stumbling block is that the person who wants to ‘share’ your car, generally neglects to seek your permission first. In many cases, the ‘borrowed’ car is never seen again, unless you happen to spot it when you are touring overseas somewhere. Sometimes, the borrower finds themselves out in the cold and needs to keep warm and so sets your pride and joy ablaze. Someone should invent some self-locking gadgetry that activates itself as the person attempts to exit the ‘hot’ car!
Having said all that, if there is an E-type Jaguar (roadster, preferably) owner out there who is prepared to ‘share’ it with me for a few months (at zero cost to me, of course!), I’ll happily take up the offer. And, no, you can’t borrow, or otherwise share our MKI Zephyr convertible. Dreams are free, yes?
I will say that the only statistic that was accurate at the time, and could be totally relied on, was my survey on the Car of the Century, which, surprisingly, turned out to be the 1959 Cadillac. My survey was conducted at the same time as this magazine’s in the early 2000s. My survey was completely random, and it was mere coincidence that the 10 individuals who participated just happened to also own a 1959 Cadillac!
Drive safely — someone might want to ‘share’ your car!