Blog: Dave LeggettPetrol sales down in UK

Dave Leggett | 11 June 2008

It is being reported that petrol sales are suddenly well down in Britain in the face of unprecedentedly high pump prices. Yes, very plausible. Behaviours will undoubtedly be influenced by higher fuel prices and at the margin, things change.

I don't believe that everyone is piling on to public transport though. Public transport was/is popular anyway for all sorts of reasons where it works, but it's often simply not a suitable substitute for a car journey.

I reckon people are thinking more about the car journeys they undertake and being smarter about their transport in general. That might mean more 'combining', such as saving a journey until it really becomes worthwhile and doing two or three tasks on one journey that might previously have been two or three separate trips as well as simply opting not to make some discretionary journeys that might have happened when petrol was cheaper.

It's early days though. Household budgets will be adjusting, but they are in adjustment phase and we don't know yet how permanent the changes will be. But, if there are profound and permanent changes to vehicle usage patterns in the pipeline, how might that impact vehicle ownership? There's a question, but if you're not sweating the household's major asset and its mere usage really hits you in the pocket due to higher running costs, you might start to resent the capital tied up in it and give that something of a reassessment at some point.

Of course, market conditions right now look generally good for cars that sip rather than guzzle, but it's still early days in terms of the changes that we may yet see. And it is not impossible that the price of oil/petrol could go down under certain circumstances, especially if - in terms of international oil - speculative 'hot money' figures strongly, which it does.

Petrol sales fall 20pc as drivers feel the pinch


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