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 601.

    This is more good news,

    the less oil we import, the better

  • rate this

    Comment number 600.

    Fuzzy/editor, if everyone stopped using a car in this country for one week the government would be bankrupt. While your ideas of healthy alternate transport is in some quarters aplaudable, it is also the reason the country is in financial decline. The money needs to be raised somewhere, how long before push bikes are road taxed and become unaffordable to the poorest in our society?

  • rate this

    Comment number 599.

    I have wondered whether the problem is that petrol has been too cheap and we have therefore become dependant on it and have been able to work miles and miles away, take unnecessary jouneys and just drive fast cars because they are fun. Changing this is good but painful for people to get used to it in the short term. Eventually though when this petrol addiction is cured we will all be happier!

  • rate this

    Comment number 598.

    557. koru

    "I am sure the polar bears are smiling too."

    If you want to make a polar bear happy just find a large hungry one and cycle up to it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 597.

    This is good news for Tory Boy as it keeps us Oiks off the road!

  • rate this

    Comment number 596.

    Big fat cats in government take note? With one billion pound disaster after another being funded by Taxpayers your inability to manage the economy is being paid for by 'plebs' who see their revenue being wasted in totally inapropriate ways. Fuel prices are just one massive hike amongst all the utilities we are seeing jump up by massive amounts whilst our wages stagnate. We need capable ministers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 595.

    I now drive less, drive a sub 1 litre car, think about every trip I make, only fill up with £10 if the pump price is high.

    They have priced me out of driving. People are driving less because we do not have the money to do it more. The government et al have pushed us too far. They must not convince themselves it was wet weather or the fact we all filled up in March!

  • rate this

    Comment number 594.

    Quite simply, fuel sales have gone down because of the incentives, directives and pressures to reduce noxious omissions; hence more efficient engines.

  • rate this

    Comment number 593.

    They want us to use public transport or walk & only make journeys by car when necessary to protect the environment. Go Green is all they can say. Then they moan because fuel consumption has decreased. MAKE YOUR MINDS UP!!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 592.

    Global warming is starting to have an impact on our weather here, so buying less petrol is great news! Less pollution in the atmosphere; more people sharing cars (more sociable); less traffic and healthier UK citizens. It's a winner :-)

  • rate this

    Comment number 591.

    575. DiscoStu

    Brilliant, well said!

    A sensible comment to counter all the nonsense from people who either don't work or live really near their place of work and think other people have a long commute out of choice. You have to travel where the work is particularly in these tough times. Oh and by the way, moving house isn't always that easy or cheap too you know!

  • rate this

    Comment number 590.

    Govt is trying to get us all to buy zero or low emission vehicles. These all come with zero or very little road tax. What happens when we all decide that fuel is so expensive we're better off buying the most economical car we can, and all stop paying road tax ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 589.

    fuel is a joke. the prices where i live go up and up almost daily, in less than one week the petrol station i use has hiked the price up by nearly 20 p.... prices in stoke on trent have not repeat not gone down. and i doubt ever will. so its time the government realise we need fuel to get to work to help build up the ecconomy the torries have ruined. and will continue to ruin

  • rate this

    Comment number 588.

    Congratulations are in order to the coalition government for effectively reducing fossil fuel usage with their taxation policy :)

  • rate this

    Comment number 587.

    Petrol prices aren't going to drop any time soon, which is why more people are cycling or walking to get around. It's a good thing on many levels - health of the nation, economy, environment, and even benefits other motorists by easing road congestion

  • rate this

    Comment number 586.

    I think we could all run our cars for a year on all the double scotches/brandy subsidised by the tax-payer for House of Commons bars/restaurants and the Bishop's Bar in the House of Lords.

    Until all of the above pay their own bills, out of their tax-payer funded income, and stop claiming from the tax-payer - they have no right to tax us who pay our own bills out of our earned/taxed income. Grrrr.

  • rate this

    Comment number 585.

    Environmentalists should be rejoicing that our fuel usage is falling. It is absolutely right that people are seeking alternative means of leading their lives and higher fuel costs are clearly having a desired effect

  • rate this

    Comment number 584.

    Well at least the greens will be happy. Just what they wanted and come to that the governments who have signed us up to these rising petrol prices (fuel levy) in order to force us off the roads. Should not be long now until the 99% of us without vast amounts of money are sat at home leading to less spending more unemployment and a complete collapse of the economy. Who thinks these things through?

  • rate this

    Comment number 583.

    I downsized the car I use for my daily commute from a 1.8 to a 1.25 and have saved around £600 on petrol over 12 months - looks like plenty of other people have done the same.

    I reckon fuel sales will continue to slide, but the government is hooked on getting its fuel duty "fix", so no-doubt they will devise another means to ensure motorists continue to pay their way several times over.

  • rate this

    Comment number 582.

    Of course they are selling less - people can't afford the price! Greed ends up eating itself, or at least I hope so. We're a country led by vampires, and we're running out of blood.


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