It must have been serendipitous, or maybe I should move from motoring to fortune-telling, but the day I write a story about how our cars have improved in the past decade, Statistics NZ sends through a report about ... how our cars have improved over the past 10 years.

Actually, the report looks at how prices of the new cars tracked for the consumer price index (CPI) have changed over the past 10 years, before and after adjustments for quality changes.

It makes interesting reading: "At the June 2011 quarter, the index based on retail prices was 20.9 per cent higher than the index based on quality-adjusted prices. This implies that the 2011 models tracked in the CPI were of 20.9 per cent higher quality than those tracked in 2001. This equates to an annual average increase in quality of 1.9 per cent."

The sector with the highest retail increase is the hatchback - from $29,500 in 2001 to $36,000 in 2011, an overall increase of 22 per cent. But the 2011 hatchback is of 24.5 per cent higher quality than the 2001 model.


As I wrote in my story on page 9, curtain airbags are nearly standard in even our cheapest new cars - and safety features are a big part of the higher quality in hatches.

Improvements in this segment include:

The engine size increased from 1.6 litres to 1.8 litres.

The transmission changed from a five-gear manual to a four-gear automatic.

A CD stereo replaced a cassette stereo and four more speakers were included, taking the total to six.

Traction control and rear disc brakes became standard.

Airbags were upgraded from being only on the driver's side to being a full package of front, side, curtain and driver's knee.

In the large sedan segment, the retail price increased from $49,700 to $54,100 (8.8 per cent). This was the weakest retail price increase of the models tracked by Statistics NZ.

The quality-adjusted price decreased from $49,700 to $49,200.

"We can also say that the 2011 model was of 9.9 per cent higher quality than the 2001 model, giving an annual average quality improvement of 0.9 per cent," says Statistics NZ.

It will be interesting to see what features our cars will have in 2021 ... I predict a new segment Statistics NZ will have to include is electric vehicles.