Who is the typical Australian motorist?
Sam Weeraratne is aged 43, lives in Victoria and drives a black Holden Commodore Sportwagon for its load-carrying capacity.
He is the typical Australian motorist. Sam is us. Statistically speaking, according to Roy Morgan Research. Despite Commodore being knocked off its top-selling perch recently by Toyota Corolla and HiLux and the Mazda3, it has been the most popular car for two decades.
So it remains for now at least the most common car on the road, one owned by 7 per cent of the driving population. Times are changing. The most common type of car is no longer the big family sedan. Now it's the sub-$40,000 small car followed closely by the ever-rising SUV (see breakout). We also like white, silver and black cars, preferably four-door sedans and usually Toyotas.
As the Commodore clings on to most popular model status, the Corolla is the top small car. BMW's 3 Series is th e most popular luxury car, LandCruiser the favourite SUV and HiLux the pick of the light commercial vehicles - and regularly, the top monthly individual seller.
The most popular vehicle varies between city and country. A RACQ study of Queensland's favourite cars found the Corolla and Camry were Brisbane's favourites. Away from the capital, the bigger car still holds sway. In provincial cities such as Toowoomba, Bundaberg and Townsville, the Aussie sedan is the top pick. Further north in Mackay and Cairns, the LandCruiser is top choice.
There are more than 12,474,000 cars on Australian roads with an average age of 10 years. According to the GIO figures, 53 per cent prefer driving a car alone and one in three prefers to travel with the family. Indeed, a GIO survey concludes: “We really are a car society with drivers twice as likely to remember their first car than their first kiss.''
One in four of us owns a motorcycle but only 1 per cent use it as primary transport. Two per cent use a bicycle and 4 per cent prefer a bus or tram.
INSIDE THE MOTOR HEAD
Like most Commodore drivers, Sam Weeraratne, chose his Sportwagon because he supports local product. “We firmly believe about buying locally made stuff and helping the economy and I always wanted to help that,” he says.
“That leads me to buying a Holden rather than a second-hand BMW or Mercedes. I also try to holiday locally, but you want to go overseas as well.” But Weeraratne is a typical of Commodore drivers. “I like my wine and if I get my hands on a good scotch, I'll have that,” he said. “A night out for me is going out to a good restaurant.
I like a lot of modern Australian food and stolen bits from all over the world.” Corolla driver Judy Smith, 62, is a semi-retired carer who commutes 50km. “I'm a very practical person,'' she says. “I needed a reliable car that was safe and Toyota has a strong reputation and good resale value. I had a Toyota years ago.
“It's also easy to get in and out of, plenty of room for the grandchildren.” In other ways she's atypical. “I only go to church when I have to and I like my vegetables but I also like meat and seafood. I drink beer and wine and my favourite drink is Asti Riccardona.''
Hawks fan Anton Koller is a perfect fit as a 44-year-old IT professional and long-time BMW 3 Series owner. “I love my cars and I love my BMWs because they're fun to drive,” he says. “The eight-speed auto transmission is silky smooth, it has unbelievable brakes and it hangs on in corners. I've always stuck with the blue and white badge.'' He also fits the BMW demographic as health conscious with an active lifestyle and well travelled.
We like white cars. Some of that's down to practicality and price non-metallic hues are often cheaper. Increasingly, white's the new black. Especially white with black accents. Postgraduate marketing researcher Andrew Golledge, of the Queensland University of Technology, says white is a practical colour popular with male and female professionals and trades people.
Second most popular colour is shared by silver - Golledge says it reflects prestige - and black, which is mostly bought by single men aged 18-35 who are “looking to establish their sense of mystery and interested in expressing themselves and their ambitions”.
White is no longer merely white. Car makers, prestige brands in particular, have launched their new model campaigns with white cars - described as pearlescent, metallic, iridescent and any number of names that you're unlikely to find on the Pantone chart.
Commodore owners drink Aussie beer, energy drinks and pre-mixed spirits and order out for pizza, saying expensive restaurants are not worth the money. They like physical activity and go to live sports events rather than art shows or cultural events. Corolla drivers drink low-fat milk, eat healthy and organic foods, devour less red meat and are worried about their cholesterol. They like eco holidays in Australia.
BMW drivers like to cook, prefer wine to beer and spirits, and are health conscious, but not as much as Corolla drivers. They enjoy an active social life and are most likely to holiday overseas somewhere they can soak up the culture.
“I don't trust the current Australian government,” say Commodore drivers, who believe corruption is a big problem. One third believe homosexuality is immoral, they are suspicious of change, worried about interest rates and believe globalisation brings more problems than it solves.
Shy Corolla owners take few risks, recycle, use logic more than their emotions and almost a third believe homosexuality is immoral. BMW owners consider themselves leaders and are optimistic about the future. They are more likely to be accepting of gay people, give to charity, consider themselves green and believe the government is doing a good job.
AFL is the top sport among motorists, followed by rugby league. For drivers of small SUVs, however, Test and one-day cricket come second to AFL. Support is fairly evenly split among the clubs, although SUV drivers tend to favour the Lions and Swans. Audi drivers support the Bombers and BMW favour the Magpies.
Holden and Ford fans are evenly split and Ford drivers don't necessarily favour Geelong, where Fords are built. Mitsubishi drivers don't follow the Crows even though they used to be made in Adelaide. Very few Renault and VW drivers follow AFL but those that do overwhelmingly support the Swans and Magpies.
In NRL, the Broncos are the top team among all types of passenger vehicles with up to 10 per cent support; often more than half the next best club. The hardiest Bronco fans are Jeep and Kia drivers with three times the support of the others.
The Bronco trend is similar among vehicle brands, however Ford drivers are evenly split with support for Melbourne Storm. Land Rover drivers are among the few that prefer the Bulldogs over the Broncos. French brands Citroen, Peugeot and Renault are least interested in league, but Citroen prefers Storm, Peugeot likes Broncos and Renault likes the Newcastle Knights.
Corolla drivers are closer to their god. One in four say they are regular church goers compared with Commodore and BMW drivers (about 15 per cent of whom attend church. Among Christian drivers of these cars, Catholics are more likely to opt for the Corolla or BMW. Of the non-Christians, most drive Corollas, particularly Buddhists and Muslims.
Four out of every five Commodore drivers are Australian-born, compared with about two out of three Corolla and BMW drivers. Asian drivers prefer the Corolla over Commodore and BMW.
Also half of all Commodore drivers live with a partner and children and about one in four is married with no children. BMW drivers are similar but they are more likely to not have children. Corolla drivers are evenly split and more of them live with their parents.
BMW drivers excel in the classroom with two out of three having a diploma or degree, compared with almost half of Corolla drivers and less than a third Commodore owners. About a quarter of Holden drivers finished secondary school.
New car buyers have turned to SUVs in record numbers this year, according to the FCAI. Sales of compact models - such as the Nissan Dualis, Mitsubishi ASX, Volkswagen's Tiguan and Hyundai ix35 - have grown at an unprecedented 61 per cent.
Australians bought 23,845 SUVs of all types last month. SUVs have tallied 177,100 sales this year or just 20,000 vehicles short of the annual figure for 2007, the record year for vehicle sales. The segment is on track to top 305,000 sales.
AT A GLANCE
Favoured car type: Small four-door sedan, under $40,000
Model: Holden Commodore/Calais
Luxury car: BMW 3 Series
Small car: Toyota Corolla
SUV: Toyota LandCruiser
Light commercial: Toyota HiLux
Car age: 10 years or less
Annual distance driven: 13,430km
Daily average drive: 11-20km
Cars per household: 1.9
Holden Commodore: Male Victorian aged 35-49
Toyota Corolla: Retired Sydney female aged over 50
BMW 3 Series: Melbourne professional either sex aged 35-49