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 1001.

    That means about 10% less pollution then! not bad eh!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1000.

    At one time families used to put a few gallons of petrol in their cars and have trips out at weekends. Now families cannot afford to do this. Cars are unfortunately a necessity for many people. Public transport is unreliable and expensive. If people want cycling to become more popular then it is time that cyclists contributed to the cost of road use and paid insurance.

  • rate this

    Comment number 999.

    I've been progressively trying to save transport fuel for years:
    - I used to drive a people carrier, now I drive a Prius.
    - I used to drive a 150 mile return trip to work; then 40 mile return, and now I work from home.

    I wish people were more price-sensitive when buying fuel. Filling stations within a mile's distance have often 10p/litre price difference. By rights they should be out of business!

  • rate this

    Comment number 998.

    We pay tax on tax for Petrol?

    Can someone tell me why we pay 70% duty on fuel then another 20% VAT on the 70%??? (paying tax on another tax!!)

    We are being robbed on this, i have to drive i live rurally and quite frankly successive govt has just made it harder. Also it massively effects youngs peoples jobs as they can't afford to get around.

    Joined up thinking needed

  • rate this

    Comment number 997.

    Is it any surprise less fuel is sold? All the people laid off due to austerity measures have stopped commuting. Those on short time and pay freezes can't afford to top up as often as they did. We are skint.

  • rate this

    Comment number 996.

    It's brilliant news and one the politicians should take note of. We can living more sustainably and cut carbon emissions:- pricing seems to be the way to do it.

    Only problem is - the government will be raising less duty from fuel tax so will 'hit' us somewhere else.

  • rate this

    Comment number 995.

    The public has decided not to pay the current exorbitant price for refuelling their cars, or at least to reduce their use of the car. This is a good thing all round, but my only worry is that the political classes will have to switch to other things to tax in order to maintain Treasury revenues. A purchase tax on bicycles perhaps?

  • rate this

    Comment number 994.

    950.Bastiat - "......You can't borrow & spend your way to real wealth."

    What an utterly contemptuous statement to make - apart form those lucky enough to ihnerit their wealth to the only way to get rich is not just to work hard, but wisely and that means borrwing to invest, say in a van to start your first company......

  • rate this

    Comment number 993.

    The car and travel in general is one of the few things that as empowered the masses. It seems that successive governments have finally turned the tide and have removed this privilage from some of us as indicated by thses figures

  • rate this

    Comment number 992.

    "Spring petrol sales decline despite lower forecourt prices"

    Not in my area they didn't. Could the decline in petrol sales be something to do with the fact that most of us do not have so much money in our pockets due to the austerity cuts, so are finding other ways to get around.

  • rate this

    Comment number 991.

    Lets just see what the so called Inquiry into pricing of petrol comes up with - another whitewash no doubt as govt is losing revenues!

  • rate this

    Comment number 990.

    It is important as sales fall that prices rise to ensure there is minimum risk to shareholders profits and government tax take. If sales fall further expect more price rises. This is the concept of all energy products but is more noticeable with petrol and derv sales to private users.

  • rate this

    Comment number 989.

    Might it be something to do with the increase in the number of people out of a job and who dont have to do as much driving. Be interesting to see if these same figures apply if the unemployment rate ever starts to fall.

  • rate this

    Comment number 988.

    People are limiting their car use, to save money. And cars are generally more fuel efficient than they used to be.

    This is a good news story.

    Pity the govt, at local and national level, isn't doing more to encourage cycle use by providing decent cycle paths.

  • rate this

    Comment number 987.

    I just SORN'd my car a few months back. Saved the road tax, insurance upcoming MOT and inevitable repairs, and the 70% or so of the price of each litre that goes to the government. Walk, cycle and public transport. There are times when I miss the convenience of the car, but they're more than outweighed by the pretty immediate and substantial savings.

  • rate this

    Comment number 986.

    Really? Sales? Falling? Can I have the bung for working out why ??

  • rate this

    Comment number 985.

    One thing this inept incompetent shower of a government succeed in is increasing the deficit and national debt by dramatically reducing tax revenue

    The sooner they are gone the better

  • rate this

    Comment number 984.

    Er no, it wasn't the condems. The Highway Code has existed for a long long time to protect other motorists from ignorant fools who think they know better.
    BTW "lorry petrol" is called diesel fuel on this planet.
    Oh and thanks for having my post removed but it still doesn't change the law on lane discipline.

  • rate this

    Comment number 983.

    The pattern of transport in this country is changing. More car clubs, less parking, more efficient public transport (the web has made public transport and walking more accessible and easy). Also, an increasingly urban population (80% of the population live in urban areas) can do without cars altogether. Less pollution, healthier people, less dependency on unstable countries - a win-win, surely.

  • rate this

    Comment number 982.

    The flintstones had the answer to fuel costs.


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