08 August 2017

Lies, Damned Lies & Statistics

If it wasn't for Johnny Foreigner, they wouldn't have a job

I like statistics. I also realise that misinterpreted or twisted, they are the worst kind of lie. The reason being figures indicate there is concrete evidence for an argument, so a wrong conclusion presented beguiles. It can be done by only emphasising the statistics that add weight to the opinion and ignoring those that would undermine or condemn the whole argument.

In a simple example, buying a product that is 95% fat free places emphasis on what they want you to notice, the 'fat free' part. Yes, I don't want too much fat in my diet. However, it has 5% fat. Nothing too difficult about that analogy and hopefully we see it for what it is, ie a product with fat.

How about this one. The UK exports nearly 80% of the cars it makes. Wow, UK cars are sought after by discerning motorists around the world... Let's wind that back. Barely 20% of UK cars are sold locally? So is that good or bad? That would depend. It comes down to volume and I'll explain.

In the UK from January to June, there were about 1.4 million cars sold. In the same period nearly 870,000 cars were made, 183,000 of them for local consumption. If you divide sales by cars made, you come up with just 13% of UK sales for domestically made products. Considering the number of car plants in the UK, I don't know of another country in a similar situation that eschews it's own like that.*

If Britain exported 80% of its production with strong demand at home, yes a success story. That would make the UK a net exporter of cars. As it is, it's a net importer by 535,000 units, or by 38% in the first six months of 2017. That is not a success story. In addition the UK has a relatively low level of component manufacturing so some models are basically screwed together there.

So the stats may be used by some to make everything sound rosy for UK car manufacturing, but the truth is that this is false. If the UK does see a downturn in exports to Europe, will the locals step into the breach? I can't see it. Most don't identify with foreign brands as their own. Some are intentionally stupid by saying a British built car adds no more value to the UK than does an imported one. An excuse to buy what they want with a clear conscience.

So in summary, there are those who proclaim the UK car industry as a huge success story. I'd say the UK is lucky to have any car making at all. What it does have is an industry dependent on exports (around the world) due to appalling indifference within. The volume isn't that great and it is well short of where it would be, but for some reasonable local support.

*This is the reason that the Brexit threat is yet another of those damned lies..er I mean statistical untruths. With nearly 1.2 million cars already imported into the UK in the six months to June (most from Germany and Spain), they have at least as much to worry about. If the EU insists on trade barriers, so be it.

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