Spring petrol sales decline despite lower forecourt prices

Petrol Petrol prices fell by more than 10p per litre in April to 131.19p at the end of June

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Nearly half a billion fewer litres of petrol and diesel were sold between April and June than during the same period last year, says the Department of Energy and Climate Change.

The reduction came despite a fall in fuel prices during the period.

It came after sales rose at the start of the year when the threat of a tanker drivers' strike saw panic buying.

Motoring organisation the AA said price rises since 2008 have contributed to a "steady decline" in the overall market.

The government figures show that more than 2 billion fewer litres of petrol and diesel were sold compared with the same period in 2008, before the recession.

In the first half of this year, a total of 16.7 billion litres of fuel was sold on forecourts in the UK.

This compares with total sales of nearly 19 billion litres between January and June 2008.

'Fair deal'

In the first three months of this year, meanwhile, there was a rise in petrol sales of almost 120 million litres compared with the same period in 2011.

Demand for fuel shot up at the end of March after ministers urged people to stock up amid threats of a strike by tanker drivers.

But the government rejected claims by retailers their advice had caused panic buying.

Petrol Retailers Association chairman Brian Madderson told BBC Radio 5 liveBreakfast that, during a week of "government-inspired panic buying", sales of petrol "got up to over a 170% of its normal rate".

Start Quote

Price transparency is the way forward - to ensure and show drivers that they are getting a fair deal at the pump”

End Quote Edmund King, AA

"So by the end of March everybody with a car had their tanks full of petrol and, of course, after that, in the second quarter, sales fell off the cliff."

The AA blamed the slump on the fuel industry for "trying to squeeze more money out of shrinking customer demand".

Its president Edmund King acknowledged that panic buying - as well as wet weather - may have played a part in the April-June fall.

"However, petrol prices slumped more than 10p a litre - from the record of 142.48p a litre in mid-April to the low-point of 131.19p at the end of June - and UK drivers began to travel further with lighter evenings, bank holidays and the Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations," he said.

He added: "While we welcome the fact that new cars have become more fuel-efficient, this goes nowhere near to accounting for the crash in demand over the past three months, and the past five years."

He said the fall in sales since 2008 had to "bring some sense of reality to the fuel market and the government".

"However, we have seen the fuel industry trying to squeeze more money out of shrinking customer demand, as was the case when wholesale diesel was cheaper than petrol in early spring but drivers and businesses were forced to pay 5p a litre more.

"Price transparency is the way forward - to ensure and show drivers that they are getting a fair deal at the pump."

Meanwhile, the AA's head of motoring Paul Watters warned that ministers may have to look elsewhere to make up lost tax revenues.

"We've heard talk of the government finding a real struggle in getting the revenues in that it was expecting and this dramatic drop won't help them one iota," he told BBC Radio 5 live.

"It will make them a bit desperate, perhaps looking towards road pricing again or looking towards squeezing more out of the tax disc that we all pay for."

A spokesman for the Department of Transport has yet to respond to a request for a comment.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 381.

    I sympathise with anyone struggling to make ends meet. However, fact - relative to income, it is significantly cheaper to run a car than it was 10 years ago. More recently, increases in driving costs were half the increases in rail under Labour. (Institute of Public Policy Research, 2012). Personally I think air-fuel should be taxed too - that it isn't is the real controversy ...

  • rate this

    Comment number 380.

    Owning a car would be utterly pointless when the public transport is so good. Oh wait hang on I don't Live in London with crossrail and a tube station every 500m. What do we get in Birmingham a tram extension of just over 1km and an additional 2 stops (This takes 4 years apparently). Used to have a huge network of trams but they were ripped out 50 years ago to make way for cars.

  • rate this

    Comment number 379.

    Petrol sales decline... well there's a surprise. Seriously what do they expect is going to happen when prices are so high, not just with fuel but with everything. Something has to give and making unnecesary journeys is one of them. However, I seem to remember the oil companies still made obsene profits last year....

  • rate this

    Comment number 378.

    374. WareCanary
    Is part of the explanation that commercial vehicles going back & forth UK-Europe just fill up in those countries abroad where the petrol is much cheaper?
    Doubt it. Commercial vehicles use Diesel. I'd also doubt that they've only started doing this in the past year too.

  • rate this

    Comment number 377.

    That means more fuel tax hikes to make up for the tax revenue loss which funds the NHS.The motorist is the cash cow of all our political parties.

  • rate this

    Comment number 376.

    Prices fall? Compared to the same time the previous year, This is just plain wrong?

  • rate this

    Comment number 375.

    Cut folks jobs, wages, benefits and allow prices to keep rising. Guess what, they can't spend money they haven't got. OMG look at the lost fuel tax revenuve! .... We're going to have to cut more jobs, wages and benefits. Hmmm.... thats the present Government's solution!!! Think its called a downward spiral! Wake up Dave, George and Nick!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 374.

    Is part of the explanation that commercial vehicles going back & forth UK-Europe just fill up in those countries abroad where the petrol is much cheaper? Has there been an equivalent significant upturn in volume over the same period in some European country?

  • rate this

    Comment number 373.

    Now find out how many more people are running their diesel cars on chip fat. That number hasn't plummeted, I can promise you

    I've noticed quite a few farty cars on the road recently, it's like the fuel they use aint quite right

  • rate this

    Comment number 372.

    I now work an extra 4 hours a week to cover fuel increases, I live where there is no regular public transport. If I could sign on to benefits I would be 28 pounds better off....Time for me to chill out and the hard working public can pick up yet another tab??? Looks like we're all suckers!

  • rate this

    Comment number 371.

    If these companies can't be nationalised (they ought to be) - then I wish the government would regulate them properly.

    We vote a government in to basically look after us (the public) and to stop us getting ripped off like this.

    Alas, we must sit back and get ripped off every day by banks, fuel companies, utility providers etc - anything that is a basic need - we end up getting ripped off

  • rate this

    Comment number 370.


    I had an LPG-converted car a few years back... Was fantastic, so cheap! Only problem at the time was the lack of fuelling points for it, but that doesn't seem to be the case these days.

  • rate this

    Comment number 369.

    I can't find any of these lower prices anywhere but will keep looking.

    As the economy goes into recession again, fuel sales will go down as well.......

  • rate this

    Comment number 368.

    Successive Govs & the fuel companies have been in agreement for yrs thinking that it doesn't matter what you charge for fuel, we have people over a barrel as they are wedded to road based transport & will pay up no matter what the cost. In hard times the mugs will sacrifice other things to keep filling the car up. This proving to be spectacularly wrong & their misjudgment is killing the economy

  • rate this

    Comment number 367.

    I need to drive to work but now only use half a tank at a time, I have also stoped using the car for trips into town.
    The prices are a rip off, they both the companies and the government know you need to buy fuel so put the price up. We as a nation are just being fleeced like sheep.

  • rate this

    Comment number 366.

    3 Minutes ago
    I'd like to see the breakdown of petrol vs diesel sales. My 26mpg petrol car broke last month. ....High fuel prices are good. They encourage people like me to switch to more efficient cars.
    No, you switched cos your car broke - had it not, you would still be in it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 365.

    The price may have dropped but the amount that the government takes has not the duty is far too high and people have been getting ripped off by successive governments for years

  • rate this

    Comment number 364.

    #338 i remember driving a lpg car in 83 1984 time.....you could switch between petrol and lpg....the lpg had no real poke in it...but it was economical, and I had a map of lpg garages....5 in the whole of the uk ha ha.

  • rate this

    Comment number 363.

    @352.Mr Rihanoff
    Income wont go up because our borders are open to anybody from mainland Europe to work here, they are prepared to work for the minimum wage because its more than they get at home, they live 8 to a house and split bills, then send their wage home to support their families, proven fact, so we lose jobs and a decent wage to people that don't spend a penny here, kick them out

  • rate this

    Comment number 362.

    It just goes to show that if you tax something to death, rather oddly, it dies...


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