Friday, October 11, 2013

Statistics as a Lamppost

The Jamaica Observer reported in this piece that Audi's sales have increased by a whole 50% in September, it did not state whether it was over the previous month or the corresponding period in 2012, 1911 or any period for that matter. I used to love the brand with the four rings until ATL Motors took it over, hate the direction they have taken it and hate the people who think it is a necessity to own one (and all the brands ATL carries - especially Honda) and I do not want to be associated with them. Therefore, my ultimate vehicle is a Toyota and if Luxury is ever in my intention, it most likely will be a Lexus.


O.K., um, 2 units were sold in the previous month and this month 3, is a 50% increase, huge figures as a percentage but rather modest sales figures in reality if you consider the actual numbers rather than the percentage. Anyway, some local figures would be really nice and comparisons with BMW's sales would also be nice! Since we are into performance, if we are to gauge any performance we need benchmarks, BMW (Audi's local target and a nice benchmark for comparison), could have sold 100 units in the corresponding period and not sold any for the same period under comparison (from my hypothetical figures above), that would still mean that BMW is outperforming Audi in actual sales but not as far as percentage goes, again, some figures would have been helpful! I'd much rather have been in charge of sales for the latter rather than the former had I been some 'big-waist' car sales executive.

This is irresponsible reporting, percentages always sound good, even better when the figures are small as any change would reflect large percentages the smaller the number. Statistics is a very destructive yet very helpful area of study. We keep hearing percentages being thrown about everyday in the media and by governments the world over and figures are quoted that sound impressive as percentages when had we been given actual figures we would have seen that the wool has been pulled over our eyes.

Andrew Lang once said: "He uses Statistics much like a drunk uses a lamppost, for support rather than illumination."

Moral of the Story: Be careful of those who quote only percentages and don't give figures to support, it is the hallmark of the under-performer who is seeking to paint a rosier than actual picture!