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 281.

    "despite a fall in fuel prices during the period"

    Ha ha ha... yes, I remember that... prices dropped by a penny a week for about a month, then increased again by the same rate, surpassing the price before the drop...

    thanks for the memory...

  • rate this

    Comment number 280.

    132, Little plum.

    Not being able to afford to drive to the gym seems a strange argument to me.

    Jog to the Gym, look at the membership fees, laugh, and jog home again.

    You save petrol, you save gym fees and you keep fit.

  • rate this

    Comment number 279.

    We got rid of our car years ago. You don't need one in Bristol; they are the slowest means of transport in this city. I used to walk and now cycle, the other half gets a bus; we've saved loads of money by not having to shell out on wear and tear, petrol, insurance and breakdown cover. I get a taxi for the big shopping, which has the advantage of using the bus lanes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 278.

    Painful in the short term but ultimately (global) high fuel prices will have a positive effect.

    Think about the global outsourcing of jobs for instance.... we might once again make things locally economically again instead of the far east.

  • rate this

    Comment number 277.

    That's because YOU are not the British public. Overall, people are not using their cars anything like as much as before. Discretionary journeys visting friends and family in different parts of the country are a thing of the past. And the recession and reduction in consumer demand have resulted in fewer trucks on the road.

  • rate this

    Comment number 276.

    I recently sold my car because it is unaffordable. However, prices on the buses in Brighton continue to rocket upwards and the trains are even worse. This is Rip-off Britain.

    Over the summer walking/cycling is a good alternative but as the days get colder, shorter and more miserable the temptation to use these rip-off services grows.

    Never thought I would but seriously considering emigration.

  • rate this

    Comment number 275.

    This is exelant news, the saving in CO2 is realy good news but the government now need to reward the people with cheeper public transport.

  • rate this

    Comment number 274.

    There comes a tipping point when if you tax something too much then people start using less of it. Petrol is no different. Successive Governments have blatently fleeced the motorist for years & so it is hardly any wonder that people are travelling less. This hurts the economy as people don't go to the shops as often, go on holiday or even go to work. It is totally self defeating

  • rate this

    Comment number 273.

    On a side note, does anyone think it's a little convienient that everyone was told to stock up on fuel when the prices peaked? I never heard anything about the strikes after easter which i found a bit strange.

    Create demand and sell as much as you can before the prices drop? They went from almost 1.50 to 1.31 after easter.

  • rate this

    Comment number 272.

    Electric Trams would be a good idea, a bit expensive to get started, but in the long term far better.
    Who's stupid idea was it to profiteer/privatise the Bus Companies ?
    Oh wait that was Thatcher.
    So, how many lobbyists are on here today ?
    How many unemployed ?
    How many retired ?
    Rest of you, get back to work !

  • rate this

    Comment number 271.

    Amazing, how much was spent on this report? Recession - so people cut down on use. Inflated prices - so people cut back. What do they expect - a boom in sales?

  • rate this

    Comment number 270.


    "Cycle, cycle, cycle, thats the way to do it, saves me over £1000 a year just going to work and that pays for the skiing holiday, oh and no gym membership required, that'll be another £1000 saved then.

    We should completely stop all road building projects and put the effort into cycleways for the commuter"

    Well goody goody gumdrops.

  • rate this

    Comment number 269.

    The price where i live is 139.9 for petrol and 143.9 for diesel, when oil price drops it takes ages to reflect at the pump, when oil price goes up it goes up right away.

  • rate this

    Comment number 268.

    I moved house 20 miles closser to where I worked my fuel bill went down, from £280 per month to about £100.00 per month. About time the fuel companies got hit, greed has always been the name of the game.

  • rate this

    Comment number 267.

    They moan at us for using too much petrol, its affect on the climate, and not using public transport. Then when the tables turn and petrol sales are in delcine, they moan again.

    You can't win.

  • Comment number 266.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 265.

    Because many of us need to get to work mate, and can't rely on depressingly inadequate public transport to do that. (and "move closer to work" isn't an option before anyone throws that nugget in!).

    Cycling's great when you don't have a near 100 mile round trip for work mate.

  • rate this

    Comment number 264.

    Are we at a tipping point? Have we reached the situation where petrol is not just a massive financial burden, but is something that many people literally can't afford?

    I hope so. Surely they will have to lower prices if people leave their jobs in droves because they can't afford to get to work. I won't hold my breath though, it's been causing problems for ages with no action already

  • rate this

    Comment number 263.

    In the refining industry I saw greed choke the transport industry from the little guys up.
    With re-investment the UK was a gold mine offering quality, clean fuels at prices compatible with other countries. But the taxman kept taking more and kept it, I’m now a casualty also - with oilfields aplenty the UK now imports crude oil. The industry is unemployed. Any idiot could have seen it coming.

  • rate this

    Comment number 262.

    I wish people would read things properly. Edmund King says "Ever-increasing prices in recent years have sent petrol sales into steady decline.." SALES not PRICES...


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