Older vehicles on collision course with safety issues

New Zealand's ageing car fleet won't get any younger until people's income improves, a local mechanic warns.

The average age of vehicles on New Zealand roads is 13 years, according to the Ministry of Transport.

But figures obtained by the Motor Trade Association (MTA) - the organisation which represents repair workshops and service stations - reveal "startling" regional variations, with significantly older fleets outside the three main population centres.

The average age of vehicles on New Zealand roads is 13 years, according to the Ministry of Transport.

Andrew Hollywood Motors director Gary Cammock said while most cars they dealt with were newer than at other garages, they still saw plenty of old bombs.

Keeping older cars on the road was fine as long as they were serviced well, he said.

"The warrant of fitness checks in New Zealand seem to be a bit blase about it.

"The amount of customers that we get in here that just say 'Well, I count on my warrant for making sure the car's OK', let alone the fact that they haven't had a service in a while because the money's tight with everybody [was concerning]."

The main problems he saw were dangerously worn tyres and blown light bulbs. "People don't even realise."

MTA spokesman Ian Stronach said the national fleet age was old compared to other benchmark countries. As a consequence, New Zealand's fleet lacked standard modern safety features like airbags and ABS braking, he said.

The comments follow the Government's September announcement of a shake-up of the vehicle licensing system, which included a proposal to extend the current six-monthly Warrant of Fitness tests on cars more than 6 years old to 12 months.

"This isn't just about driving a new car with all the mod-cons - the increasing number of old, often poorly-maintained, vehicles has serious safety implications for anyone who travels on the roads," Mr Stronach said.

Economic factors were forcing people to keep old cars longer, he said. "Our slow-moving economy and our poor maintenance culture are in head-on collision."

AA spokesman Mark Stockdale said while older cars had fewer safety features, it did not make them less safe. Vehicle defects were a minor contributor to vehicle crashes, he said.

Average car fleet age

  • Wairoa: 14.9 years.

  • Napier: 13.4.

  • Hastings: 13.7.

  • Waimate district: 17.

  • Auckland: 11.

  • Rotorua: 13.1.

  • New Zealand: 13.03.

  • Australia: 10.

  • USA: 10.8.

  • Russia: 11.8.

  • UK: 7.4.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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