cars lined up at a dealership

March of the Machines

With the new year comes the close of the last, and a flood of easy statistics to describe the year past. Taking the 10 highest selling models of car (light vehicles including “utes”) in Australia over the past decades provides some interesting data to consider.

graph of Australian car specifications over time

The data points are from the entry level specifications for each of the vehicles as no reliable breakdown of the tiers sold are available. Also as these are only the highest selling models it does not provide a complete picture of the Australian car market, but rather a representative subset of typical vehicles.

One common belief this sought to explore is that the performance of modern vehicles has increased substantially. Looking at this data, while the average power of a new vehicle has approximately doubled over the period increasing by 110%, the weight has continued in line with this and the resulting increase in power to weight ratio (acceleration performance) has been just 50%.

Lower on the graph the fuel consumption figures are presented for the same vehicles (the only diesel vehicle was adjusted by the relative energy content) in litres per hundred kilometres. This has been slowly dropping but still remains well above best practice or the theoretical limit for 2×2 seating arrangements of around 4l/100km at the base of the graph. Despite higher fuel prices than world average, it remains such a minor cost of operating a vehicle that there has been insufficient customer pressure on the automakers to even offer more efficient vehicles in the Australian market.

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