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 481.

    Well said! - OIL is on the wane - Governments Never mention this fact - it's not a vote winner. Oil running short WILL change civilsiation as we know it given we have no viable alternative. This very fact should be the headline on every newspaper/bulletin every hour, every day..

  • rate this

    Comment number 480.

    Maybe the Government's scare mongering over Fuel Shortages perpetuated by the Media was responsible for the 0.5Bn litre difference?

    Maybe people are fed up or more aware (or both) that the Government are ripping them off by charging VAT on Fuel Duty (tax on tax) every litre they buy and have had enough?

    Maybe the days of the motorist as a Government Cash Cow are coming to an end?

  • rate this

    Comment number 479.

    Really struggling with the price of fuel. This doesn't help the uk economy.
    Government should act now and do something about it. 12p increase per litre (55p per gallon) in the last month - that's ridiculous!

  • rate this

    Comment number 478.

    Information: there isn't just one "oil price" there are many depending on the source (Africa, mid east etc) & type: sweet or sour, light or heavy. There can be a big difference: e.g. December Brent is $110 and WTI $92. Just because one oil price falls doesn't mean they all do + tax and oil price aren't the only factors: refinery capacity is one, and each refined product has its own supply & demand

  • rate this

    Comment number 477.

    24 Minutes ago
    Lets Nationalise the Bus Companies.
    They were nationalised.. guess what set of greedy charlatains changed that
    As were trains - we now pay more for less.
    As was BP - we now pay more for less
    As were utilities- we now pay more, for less.

    Next, health service - now, can anyone tell me what good came of right wing dogma? (for NORMAL people)

  • rate this

    Comment number 476.

    Might the awful summer have something to do with it?

  • rate this

    Comment number 475.

    This slump in petrol/diesel sales is a mystery to me. Has anyone noticed less traffic on the roads? Not me. Motorways too. I have to use the M25 twice a week and, even with the extra new lane, it's still hellish, particularly with juggernauts. Must admit, I am using the train more nowadays, but that's only because the traffic on the roads is madder than ever.

  • rate this

    Comment number 474.

    Gov needs to cut the price of tax on a litre, problem is that they cant, EU Green regs stymie them.

    Knots tied on knots tied on knots.

    Howthe hell did we get to this stage?

  • rate this

    Comment number 473.

    This is unsurprising. The days of driving about are now over. Only middle aged men are carrying on as everyone used to. Fast flashy car makes you look a bit out of date, and owning a Jag is very John Prescott

    The 20th Century was the century for travelling about. The 21st Century is the time for finding and staying in a quality place to live

  • rate this

    Comment number 472.

    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." - who can make a tank of petrol last a quarter? Filling up your tank is only going to last a fortnight at best for most people.

    Petrol is just becoming an unaffordable luxury - going down to a price of 131.19p is hardly what I'd call a "slump".

  • rate this

    Comment number 471.

    If your journey is less than 6 miles each way then get out of your car and onto your bike, It is healthier, quicker - especially if you live in congested cities - and will save a packet.

    No longer the need for costly gym memberships which you don't use or expensive monthly rail cards for crowded trains. Just a great, carb using, daily workout.

  • rate this

    Comment number 470.

    The amount of NEET's is hugely increased from 4 years ago, and it must be partly because they have no real chance to afford everything they need to have their own transport. I'm 24 and my car costs me £270 tax, £50 MoT, £580 insurance, plus £60 a tyre and whatever on oil/maintenance. You add all this to a £40 fuel/week (80% for work) and you outprice a lot of people from owning own transport.

  • rate this

    Comment number 469.


    No Peter, compared to us they spend very little in this country, they live 8 or 10 to a house and split the rent, they eat all meals in a subsidised works canteen, they walk to and from work, most of their wage is then sent back to Poland, if they were not allowed to work here it would create thousands of jobs at a decent wage, even the agency they work for is Polish, laughable.

  • rate this

    Comment number 468.

    The storm petrols (petrels) are coming home to roost!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 467.

    It is not hard to work why. People just do not have any money at all. So we only use the car when we have to now. No nights out to cinema or for a meal. With less people in work over all less people use the car to get to work.

  • rate this

    Comment number 466.

    My work is 14 miles from my house.

    If I take the train it takes one hour each way including walking to house/station/office and costs £8.20 per day

    If I take the car it takes 1/2 hour in the morning, 3/4 hour in the evening and cost me £6.20 in fuel per day.

    The bus requires two bus companies and costs as much as the train, but takes an extra hour.

    I wish public transport was cost effective

  • rate this

    Comment number 465.

    The core problem is the Government is spending more than tit is receiving-exactly as Gordon Brown did.Mickey Mouse economics. In a period of stagnant demand some bright spark decided to price hauliers and motorists out of existence.Terrific! Mr Macawber would have a few suggestions I'm sure.Foreign aid and the civil service have to be slashed, then reduce Income Tax to a maximum of 20%.

  • rate this

    Comment number 464.

    This can only be good news

  • rate this

    Comment number 463.

    @ 393 Fred Bloggs
    The stats come from official (IPPR) research. Statistics represent the average overall and may not apply to you personally (or agree with your world-view) but that doesn't make them rubbish. A lot of the anti-taxation argument comes from personal anecdote and hearsay. That's not to say fuel tax doesn't cause genuine hardship, but then so do other taxes we all have to pay.

  • rate this

    Comment number 462.

    We need to presurise the system, yes people are buying less road fuel because the price is sky high. We need to boycot buying road fuel unless it is absolutley necessary. If your journey is walkable then walk or cycle. Hey you may need to allocate more time but lower fuel sales will eventually have an effect on pushing the price down and we might all lose a few pounds around the waist as well.


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