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 641.

    Lower prices, it's 1.38 in where I live, like everyone else plan our journey, don't go out unless we walk, so poping into the city is a thing of the past now even for a coffee or just a walk round the shops. Have to do a 60 mile round trip for work everyday as made redundant 4 years ago ( lucky to get a job so quick) but when I started petrol was 76p.

  • rate this

    Comment number 640.

    What would have been the tax collected on the 1/2 billion litres of fuel ? Maybe the Fabian Society's idea of building 1m new homes (probably with 2 cars each) would help bridge the shortfall in consumption/tax.

  • rate this

    Comment number 639.

    For some of us, we have to travel, now working in Kent, 4 months ago the IOW, before that , Edinburgh, Newcastle, Leeds, Brighton, London, Amsterdam, Madrid.... I do not sit on my backside, but get out and chase the work. Somtime you wonder whether the degradtion in one's health , family life is worth it, so it really gets my goat up when people get freebees.

  • rate this

    Comment number 638.


    Stupid selfish people should be taxed off the roads for causing climate change.


    So, you only eat food grown within horse & cart range of home, don't buy ANY imported goods & never travel?

    I think not.

  • rate this

    Comment number 637.

    What we really need is a viable alternative to petrol, not cheaper petrol. Surely that is the long term fix? The reality is that petrol prices will never go down in the long term, as populations grow, demand grows, and sources of oil reduce.

  • rate this

    Comment number 636.

    @482 - If you'd driven a couple of miles off the A1 you'd probably save yourself over 10p per litre. Check http://www.whatprice.co.uk/petrol-prices/recent-petrol-prices.html for the best prices. The summer decline is down to one thing - the weather - not March panic-buying!! Petrol (like everything) is too expensive, but for the government to reduce taxes they'd have to be spend a lot less.

  • rate this

    Comment number 635.

    The weather during that period was awful - who is going to drive 50 or 100 miles to an attraction or the beach when it is raining cats and dog?

  • rate this

    Comment number 634.

    I take great comfort in knowing that having to spend less (not through choice!) is having the desired effect of nailing an extra tack every day into the coffin of the powers that be.
    And yet they do nothing to the 'haves' amongst us, and instead the 'have nots' suffer as a result.
    Still - good to know the the air is slightly fresher - although the stench of greed still lingers in many

  • rate this

    Comment number 633.

    Fuel is becoming a luxury commodity. Maybe if the fuel companies were not in bed with the government we wouldn't be in this mess, but we all know we're called "Rip off Britain" for a reason. People think we live in a democracy, we don't. What we live in now is a corporatocracy. Look it up and tell me I'm wrong.

  • rate this

    Comment number 632.

    I'm confused is this article saying this is a bad thing? I thought we were supposed to be saving energy, reducing emissions, decongesting(?) the roads!
    But of course, as pointed out, loads of people are losing their profits, so forget all that environmental crap, and get on with business...

  • rate this

    Comment number 631.

    569 Fuzzy & 572.isitallaPonzischeme
    I use my car almost exclusively to get to & from work: a round trip of 66mi a day as I can't find work nearer home.
    I don't own a bike and have no desire to, but even if I did, it would not be practical for a journey of that length.
    Outside of work I rarely use the car.
    Ever thought that for some, a car is essential for independant travel (disabilities)?

  • rate this

    Comment number 630.

    Put the base rate up! The pound will grow instantly stronger and fuel and food prices will come down. People with savings will also start to spend their interest and confidence will come back. Tax receipts will boom.

    Years of record low base rates is slowly killing this country to save the banks. Propping up crazy house prices that first time buyers can't afford (even the naff new builds).

  • rate this

    Comment number 629.

    I cycle over 11 miles each way to work unless the roads are icy or unless it is very windy. I am 56, and not a natural athlete. Fortunately I have good health. Why do so many people feel they are dependent upon their car even though they only live a mile or 2 from work? The benefits of cycling or walking are obvious on your pocket and on your health.

  • rate this

    Comment number 628.

    Greedy governments and greedy petrol companies, now they will try to get the money else where, I cant believe you vote for these people, I really cant!!!! Vote for UKip at least you will get a fairer deal out of it..

  • rate this

    Comment number 627.

    576 Sproutaholic - Yeh you are spot on. They would tax hay.

  • rate this

    Comment number 626.

    @435 Taz - Correct. And the company car tax gets ramped up every year so a fuel efficient "10% tax benefit" leased 3 years ago is now a "17% benefit" car and even electric cars will get the same treatment in 2 years. Very climate conscious I'm sure.

  • rate this

    Comment number 625.

    Shame really, petrol companies may only make $10Bn profit this year instead of $12Bn

    How will they cope?

  • rate this

    Comment number 624.

    1 litre of fuel gets hit by 58p duty (tax), it then gets hit by 20% VAT on the fuel AND the duty (taxed on tax). This all gets whisked off to the government who "claim" they want to stimulate the economy ...

    Errr ....

  • rate this

    Comment number 623.

    I do wonder how many people in this country could manage to use their cars less. I'm fortunate to live in the centre of one of our largest cities, so it's easy to get around, but where I grew up (just outside of a small NW city) you simply NEED a car. Public transport just isn't there to get where you want to go, and a bike would actually be pretty dangerous on fast roads with poor visibility.

  • Comment number 622.

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


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