A recent News.com.au article claims Australian motor vehicle sales reveals a great deal about the community and how car sales impacts upon the nation and therefore this is of equal relevance to Christian ministry.
This topic is not so random for Australasia as it might seem as in the eighties New Zealand allowed the import of second hand vehicles from Japan and what this meant was that many limited stipend ministers could afford reasonable motor vehicles.
This came to my attention at that time as I had come into contact with numerous New Zealand Christian ministers through the sports ministry and my role as the chaplain to the Australian cricket team. It proved to be quite an effort at Government policy to even allow such imports.
These January Australian new car sales are of interest as they provide more than just sales statistics but a plethora of social information.
The question therefore is what sort of 'social' information might they provide that might in any way be associated with Christian ministry.
In the first instance the size of vehicles purchased has a host of ramifications for the nation from climate issues, to the cost of fuel and or repair, the nature of the size of vehicle tyres, to family type vehicles as opposed to tradesmen and retail business type vehicles, to that of the nature of the small motor car.
Perhaps a better sampling of motor vehicle selection is not the supermarket car park where there is a weighing statistic of the breadth of motor vehicles parked there - as opposed to national sales - rather a better gauge might be the mega church parking lot.
Church research shows that those who attend Christian church, surprise surprise to the initiated, unbelief to those who do not attend worship, is that committed Christian people tend to give more, save more and spend their disposable income with greater care.
This reflects likewise on their choice of motor vehicle purchases and the reasons the laity selects their vehicle of choice. Giving one example, many Christian women, if given the choice with their resources, would prefer a four door vehicle so as to be amenable to helping transport both families and those without a vehicle.
Another example, many Christian family's with their children coming into their early teens, will tend to go for a people mover in order to help with the church youth group transport needs. All of this is simple logic, but multiply such recognised needs and choices made - across the nation - trends begin to show up.
January new car sales statistics
Toyota 13,661 — up 0.1 per cent
Mazda 9006 — down 4.3 per cent
Holden 8401 — down 5.3 per cent
Hyundai 6901 — down 3.5 per cent
Ford 5387 — down 21.3 per cent
Nissan 4537 — up 6.7 per cent
Volkswagen 4397 — up 8.6 per cent
Mitsubishi 4080 — down 1.4 per cent
Subaru 3104 — up 1.7 per cent
Honda 2703 — up 9.4 per cent
Percentage change compared with the same month last year.
Source: Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries.
Later figures are now available (News.com).
82,116 new car sales occurred during January 2015 which was a drop of 0.02% from January 2014. Toyota still had the highest sales by a good margin and Holden dropped below Mazda while Ford's was very disappointing.
Moreover with all its advertising Jeep just missed out on this list of 10 which illustrates yet again what a remarkable promotional campaign Jeep has entertained. Interestingly, Jeep sales on the Gold Coast / Tweed have been quite remarkable. The advertising for that economic socio area has hit the right chord and go to any of big churches of which there are many, and you'll see why!
The Toyota tradies vehicles are the classic favourite across Australia whereas their champion small car of many a decade (Corolla) still holds the slightly financially better off small car purchasers in their grip. Into this same category we might even include the Volkswagon Golf for its longevity although without the fanfare of the Beetle of a generation ago.
Now the big ute is back in force with articles in the popular press on these super huge American utes coming to Australia. Very popular they are too!
The trends are obvious and although the electric car or hybrid has still not claimed the nation's singular attention to its merits, what we can say is that the mega church car park reveals where the direction of specific socio economic motor vehicle new car sales.
My son came home with a work vehicle at one time, one those electric petrol hybrids (many of our local taxi's use them as well) and the grand feature was its road running silence. My dad joke was that the problem as I saw was its silent running, that when you pulled up at home, you wouldn't know whether you'd been to the shops or not!
Sadly, for way too many people, after attending church, this is the same philosophical question asked.
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He mentors young writers and has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html