1301.0 - Year Book Australia, 2001  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 25/01/2001   
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Estimates of the size of the Australian vehicle fleet were first published in Commonwealth Of Australia Yearbook No 16, for 1923. In 1921 there were approximately 99,270 motor vehicles and 37,580 motor cycles registered. The size of the fleet increased steadily to reach 562,271 motor cars, 258,025 commercial vehicles and 79,237 motor cycles at 30 June 1939. By 30 June 1946 and following the Second World War, registrations of motor cars and motor cycles had fallen to 522,615 and 72,701 vehicles respectively, while commercial vehicle registrations had grown to 333,129.

The motor vehicle census conducted in 1947-48 provided a detailed breakdown of the composition of the Australian vehicle fleet for the first time. The 1947-48 census showed that there were almost one million registered vehicles in Australia at the time, not including motor cycles. The census included details of vehicle type, vehicle make, year of manufacture, horsepower, and carrying capacity for commercial vehicles. Continued growth since then has seen the fleet expand to almost 12 million vehicles in 1999, excluding motor cycles. This 12-fold increase in just over 50 years compares with a population growth of 2.4 times over the same period.

Between 1947-48 and 1999, ownership of a vehicle changed from being relatively unusual to being quite common. In 1947-48 there was an average of only one vehicle per 7.8 persons; by 1999 this average had risen to one vehicle per 1.6 persons (graph 23.36). This increase in the size of the fleet relative to the increase in population mirrored the dramatic increase in the 1920s up to the onset of the Great Depression; the estimated average was one vehicle per 45 persons in 1921, rising to one vehicle per 11 persons in 1930. However, by 1939 the average had only risen further to one vehicle per 7.8 persons.

New South Wales recorded the highest number of registrations in 1947-48 with over a third of the entire vehicle fleet, due primarily to its higher population. Victoria accounted for 29%, Queensland 16%, South Australia 11%, Western Australia 7% and Tasmania 3%. In 1999, New South Wales was still the leading State although its proportion of total vehicle registrations had fallen to 30%. Victoria'sand South Australia's shares (27% and 8% respectively) had also fallen since 1947-48, while Tasmania's had remained steady. The significant rises in the proportion of registrations in Queensland (19%), the Australian Capital Territory (2%) and particularly of Western Australia (11%) were a consequence of changing population growth.

The average age of vehicles in the fleet was estimated at 11.3 years in 1947-48, slightly higher than the figure of 10.6 years in 1999. The high average vehicle age in 1947-48 reflected low production rates of vehicles during the war period, and the resulting low rate of new vehicle registrations at the time. In the intervening period, this figure fell to an estimated age of 6.1 years in 1971 with the increasing numbers of new vehicles joining the fleet. It then rose steadily to reach a peak of 10.7 in both 1997 and 1998. Likely factors contributing to this rise were the large increase in the proportion of households with two or more vehicles, the improved reliability of vehicles, enabling them to be kept on the road longer, and the increased cost of replacing vehicles.

In 1947-48, passenger vehicles accounted for 61% of the total vehicle fleet, with light commercial vehicle and trucks together accounting for 35%. By 1999 these figures had changed to 81% and 18%, respectively.

The top five makes of passenger vehicles accounted for 51% and the top 10 for 71% of all registered passenger vehicles in 1947-48. The top five makes were Chevrolet (16%), Ford (16%), Vauxhall (7%), Dodge (6%) and Morris (6%). By 1999 the top five makes together accounted for 75% of total passenger vehicle registrations. The top five makes were Ford with 21% of all passenger vehicle registrations, Holden (20%), Toyota (17%), Mitsubishi (10%) and Nissan (8%). In contrast, four of the top five makes in 1947-48 (Chevrolet, Vauxhall, Dodge and Morris) accounted for less than half of one per cent of registrations in 1999.

The makeup of the truck fleet is now much less concentrated than in 1947-48, when the top two makes, Ford and Chevrolet, together accounted for over half of all registrations. In 1999, the top five makes, International, Isuzu, Ford, Mitsubishi and Hino, together accounted for about the same proportion. Ford and Chevrolet were also the dominant makes in the light commercial vehicle fleet in 1947-48 with just under half of total registrations. In 1999 Toyota, Ford and Holden dominated this segment with about 68% of registrations.

Only about 5% of all commercial vehicles (with a reported carrying capacity) were capable of carrying loads of 100 hundredweight or more in 1947-48, the equivalent of 5.08 tonnes or more. In contrast, over 55% of rigid trucks registered in 1999 had a gross vehicle mass (weight of the vehicle including a full load) of 8 tonnes and over.