A recent survey by car supermarket group Motorpoint revealed that car owners have been increasingly leaving their vehicles at home since fuel prices broke through the £1-a-litre barrier at the beginning of November.
The company apparently conducted a survey of drivers to check the established perception that the cost-burdened British motorist would continue to soldier on regardless of increasing costs. The results of the poll showed that one third of them would not. Paul Winfield, Motorpoint’s operations director commented that while his company helps to save its customers money on the purchase price of their cars, more of that saving is being eaten up by other costs of ownership. "These findings show that now a lot of motorists are literally voting with their feet," he said. He also pointed out that there were 57 service stations within 10 miles of his company’s headquarters in Derby, and on one day prices varied by 14p - which he said was "staggering in what is supposed to be an ultra-competitive market".
Since then, of course, prices have risen significantly again, and other press reports calculate that the cost of each visit to the petrol station has risen by £7.36 since this time last year. And as the price of a barrel of oil surged through the $100-a-barrel market for the first time (at the time of going to press), fuel prices are heading for £5-a-gallon. So will more people be leaving their cars at home because of high prices? Or are they, as Ray Holloway suggests in his column on page 7, the victims of a fragile supply infrastructure - not to mention the cheap prices on Shell sites which triggers queuing and empty tanks. In other words, drivers can’t get the fuel even if they wanted to!