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New Zealand Classic Car - - Contents -

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!

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