PETROL sales have slumped as motorists cut back on their driving.
And the trend could continue as nearly 40% of drivers surveyed by the AA said they would either drive more economically or drive less often in 2012.
Figures released by the motoring organisation show sales of petrol dropped by 1bn litres during the first nine months of 2011 compared with the previous year.
Sales at the pumps totalled 13.9bn litres in the period January to September, 2011.
But they were 14.9bn litres between January and September, 2010, and 16.3bn in the pre-recession period of January to September, 2008.
The AA said it was drivers from the lower socio-economic groups who intended to be economical with petrol.
AA spokesman Paul Watters said: “Drivers are clearly being forced into cutting their motoring by the high price of fuel and, for many, this will impose difficult constraints on their lives.
“We have reached the stage where motoring is once again only easily affordable for the better off and with the car still the mainstay means of travel for the majority that is depressing news at the start of 2012.”
Chris Stern, of Paddock-based C J Stern (Oils) Ltd, said sales in Huddersfield were also down “a few percent” but had not slumped.
“We’ve been used to growth and that’s not been the case in 2011,’’ he said. “Sales have gone down in 2011 and the main reason is obviously the price of fuel going up.”
Mr Stern said it was difficult to tell if sales would continue to dive but said a deeper economic downturn could cause oil prices to slide.
He added: “That could help alleviate prices at the pumps that are such a burden on people. Obviously there are a number of unknowns at this stage, but hopefully in his March budget the Chancellor will look favourably on motorists and not put fuel duty up.”