In March the Ministry of Transport released its Annual Vehicle Fleet statistics for the 2017 year.
The size of the fleet has increased from 3,977,966 light vehicles in 2016 to 4,154,897 in 2017. As with previous years the average age remains stubbornly high at 14 years. The number of electric vehicles that have been registered has increased significantly from 940 to 2, but still makes only a tiny fraction of our total light vehicle fleet.
My parents have two vehicles. One is a 2007 Hyundai Getz, which has done 102,000 kilometres. They purchased it in 2010 with about 35,000 kilometres on the odometer. The Toyota Surf that was purchased in 2003 is even older, having come off the vehicle line in 1995. It has done 340,000 kilometres and would probably be good for another 100,000 kilometres.
The Hyundai Getz is 11 years old and below the national average. My parents are by no means the only ones with such old vehicles. My fathers brother owns a Toyota Surf as well that might even older and quite likely with as many kilometres on it. And the reasons for holding on to such old vehicles for so long is simple: reliable, do everything the owners want and well maintained they can last a long time.
Ford Falcons, Holden Commodore’s, Subaru Legacy’s, Toyota Surfs, RAV4’s, Corolla’s along with various Honda’s, Mazda’s, Suzuki’s all contribute substantially to the aging fleet.
Other factors are at play too, which the Government and New Zealand Transport Authority need to recognize. Many New Zealanders cannot afford newer vehicles and a lot of newer models have gone for style over substance, have features such as phones and fancy entertainment features that are simply not considered to be necessary.
There are mounting problems with the vehicle fleet though. Among the problems are:
- As they age, vehicles become more expensive to fix which may be put down to a shortage of parts for particular types
- As an older vehicle ages it becomes more dangerous – newer ones for ease of obtaining new parts, having accepted safety measures and ratings pose less of a risk to other road users
- New Zealand has climate change obligations to meet and reducing vehicle emissions will be a priority for this Government
- New Zealanders incomes have been largely static for a long time and unless they move, new vehicles entering the market will go through several owners before they look near affordable to lower and middle income brackets
- Were there to be a significant overhaul of the available product in the fuel supply market, newer types and biofuels might not be usable in older vehicles
Vested interests such in the motoring industry and political influences mean that significant resistance may be expected if a comprehensive attempt is made to update our aging light vehicle fleet. However the social and economic costs of doing so might be even higher.