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 621.

    10 Minutes ago
    Maybe people are starting to wake up. Why use the car when you can use the bike? Besides being cheaper than the car, it's healthier, no gym fees and more fun.The joke is, a lot of people work hard so as they can afford to run a car! Owning a car is so old hat.

  • rate this

    Comment number 620.

    Prices fell? They never fell and they've been over 1.31 when it says its at its all time low that's wrong. The fuel prices is what made me gave up learning to drive. my dad and step mum both drive and 10quid of fuel only does a school run for two days then they are forced to drive on the red for the rest of the week. The prices of fuel is sick it doesn't match the wholesale price at all.

  • rate this

    Comment number 619.

    It's too expensive to work nowadays

    Save yourself a fortune by going on the dole or retiring early

  • rate this

    Comment number 618.

    Every part of motoring is over-priced, especially the actual cars themselves. If they sold them here I'd happily run around in one of the Indian Tata cars

  • rate this

    Comment number 617.

    Perhaps if the oil companies are worried about falling sales they should do what others do in the same situation and have a half price sale to stimulate demand.

  • rate this

    Comment number 616.

    I know Oil companies aren't saints by any means but at least they have to go to all the effort and investment to get the damn stuff out of the ground and are subject to world markets. The government is who you should all be directing your (and my!) anger at, it is their gouging taxation (or theft as I'd prefer to call it) that is directly to blame for the extortionate price of our fuel.

  • rate this

    Comment number 615.

    still wonder what those figures would be had it not been the wettest three months on record

  • rate this

    Comment number 614.

    600. Ticky - "...how long before push bikes are road taxed and become unaffordable to the poorest in our society?"

    Can't wait for that personally. Then let's see the reaction of everyone who's lucky enough to be close enough to work to cycle there. I doubt they'll be quite as smug.

    For me cyclists should be paying road tax anyway... But perhaps that's a discussion for another day. :)

  • rate this

    Comment number 613.

    Changed car - lower mpg excellent, Only short essential journeys and no casual trips anywhere - why are we surprised when the cost of a litre of fuel has no barriers to prevent arbitrary increases on the whim of the petrol refineries - I suspect it is not the forecourts who make money, they are pawns in the whole fuel price hike. Useless Govt control and greed have come home to roost.

  • rate this

    Comment number 612.

    The price at our pumps seems to go between 137p and 140p, creeps up more than it does down & was 129p in April. Pump prices never match the fall in "barrel cost".
    Don't use my car for days at a time, I get shopping delivered at the cheapest time slots & don't go anywhere unless I have to, the prices of my rail ticket to work is bad enough at £1350pa for a 16 minute, TWO stop journey.

  • rate this

    Comment number 611.

    About time, Are the Oil companies aware of the fact that the longer prices stay at their present level Consuption will continue to fall because more and more people are going to buy Electric cars, I condfidently predict that the wholesale price of oil is going to crash , a 10% increase in electric cars will do the trick and it just might dawn on the oil speculaters and the oil companies are wrong

  • rate this

    Comment number 610.

    How do you think commodities move around the country?

    Trains can operate on electricity, which can be generated by wind. A bonus, jobs could be created to upgrade the infastructure to a more advanced and cleaner system. You might even be smiling mate!

  • rate this

    Comment number 609.

    Right so we all panic bought in the first 3 months and then had enough fuel stored to not need any for the next 3 months? I don't think so!! It is almost certainly that people are only making essential journeys and/or driving with fuel efficiency in mind because wages are certainly not going up by 20% a year like fuel prices!

  • rate this

    Comment number 608.

    Fuzzy get back into the real world. I work in different locations throughout the week, the furthest being 25 miles away, with no direct bus route. You expect me to cycle that? People use cars out of necessity, not as an indulgent pastime.

  • rate this

    Comment number 607.

    Excellent News !! - Hopefully send a message to the Petrol Company's that they do not have a captive audience. Now lets try and do the same to the Energy Company's !!!.

  • rate this

    Comment number 606.

    Happy to use other methods of transport - if they existed where I live. Bus service is almost non-existent, trains are reasonably timed in peak hours but horrendously overpriced. Why do I live where I do? Because I cannot afford to live any closer to London where I work. I won't move elsewhere because of the economic situation i.e. no jobs - any other bright ideas??

  • rate this

    Comment number 605.

    Rip off prices more like it. Average price of petrol per litre 1.43 pounds .... in old money in 1 gallon = 6.54 pounds per gallon of petrol.

    Lets look at diesel. Average price 1.46 per litre, in old money in gallons 6.64 pounds per gallon.

    Out of every 30 pounds, you spend at the pump. 18 pounds is tax.

    After moving back from the States after 12 years i am horrified at the prices,

  • rate this

    Comment number 604.

    Seems to be a case of double standards. We're told to use more public transport, walk less, car pool, be greener....and then we're told we're not buying enough fuel?!
    Make your minds up!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 603.

    Government is fully aware of the industry 'issues' associated with petrol prices, but has no interest in fixing them as this is one of its key sources of guaranteed revenue which funds the above market pension benefits of its employees.

  • rate this

    Comment number 602.

    Recently due to the massively high local prices (145.9ppl for diesel) I have taken to shopping once per week and working form home when possible. We use the most fuel efficient car we have for most driving and drive as fuel efficiently as possible. Like it or not the public just cannot afford to keep paying these high prices, regardless of if they are taxes or profit. New ideas are required.


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