Statistics on the registration of new motor vehicles is one
measure of motor vehicle sales and one which is widely quoted in
the media. These statistics are considered to be an important
indicator of the health of the economy as a whole and an indicator
of economy-wide trends. The reason for this is that during times of
recession purchases of new vehicles fall and at times when the
economy is booming new vehicle purchases increase.
The purchase of new passenger vehicles forms a
significant part of consumer expenditure. Because of this, economic
analysts consider that passenger vehicle sales are an important
indicator of consumer sentiment.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) collects and publishes
motor vehicle registration statistics on a monthly basis.
Motor vehicle registration is a state and territory concern. To
compile Australia-wide figures the ABS obtains statistics on
registrations from state and territory authorities.
All state and territory authorities except those in New South
Wales, Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia provide data to
the ABS on a monthly basis. These states provide data on a weekly
basis. This means that in some months the ABS processes five weeks
of data for these states. In turn this means it is possible in some
months that there will be a greater number of registrations
recorded because the carry forward from the previous month is
likely to exceed the carry over to the next month.
In addition, for Queensland, data on the number of registrations
processed in a calendar month can relate to vehicles registered
prior to that month.
While the ABS takes great care to ensure the consistency of the
statistics they publish, these state and territory differences mean
that month to month variations need to be treated with caution.
Figure 1 shows monthly seasonally adjusted passenger vehicle
registrations for the period from January 1977.
They show an irregular upward movement to a peak in early 1985
followed by a decline to a low in mid 1987. Since 1987 there has
been a peak in early 1990, another trough in 1991-92 and a steady
rise to the present day.
In general these peaks and troughs mirror the wider economy over
this period. However, the dramatic drop in registrations in 1987
was due mainly to a range of factors relevant at the time including
a depreciation in the Australian dollar, high interest rates and
lower real disposable incomes. The introduction of the fringe
benefits tax at around this time is considered to have had only a
small effect on new car sales and hence on registrations.
Figure 2 shows annual totals for passenger vehicle registrations
in Australia. This graph smooths out some of the fluctuations in
monthly data and shows dramatically the drop in new registrations
MESI Table 4.2
Monthly Economic and Social Indicators Table 4.2 shows:
- monthly seasonally adjusted data on new registrations of
passenger vehicles: motor cars, station wagons, four wheel drive
passenger vehicles and forward control passenger vehicles with up
to nine seats including the driver;
- annual totals; and
- annual percentage changes.
Monthly data are graphed to show the movement in the series over
the past few years.
Note that the motor vehicle registration series is subject to
large irregular fluctuations and care should be exercised when
interpreting movements in the series.
Further information can be obtained by contacting a member of
the Statistics Group in Information and Research Services,
Department of the Parliamentary Library.
This feature was prepared by Greg Baker.
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