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11. 05. 12. - 15:54

Q1 car boom succeeded by April austerity

Austrian car dealers sustained a slight setback last month as the number of car sales fell.

Statistik Austria said yesterday (Thurs) the number of car registrations dropped by 1.8 per cent from April 2011 to April 2012 when 32,700 vehicles were bought and registered for usage in the country.

This news follows reports of a rise of car sales of one per cent to 88,800 from the first three months of last year to the first quarter of 2012. Motorbikes (plus 5.1 per cent) were more popular as well between January and March. The number of lorry purchases declined by 10 per cent, according to statisticians.

The coming months’ figures could help in finding out whether Austrians’ love for cars can be affected by steadily rising petrol prices. One litre of diesel and Eurosuper petrol costs around 1.4 Euros at the moment, up from half the sum in 2002. Similar developments can be witnessed across the continent.

People in six of the seven countries bordering Austria have to rake out more for fuel. Only Slovenian drivers pay slightly less than Austrians. One litre of diesel petrol costs approximately 1.3 Euros in the European Union (EU) member where Petrol and OMV dominate the service station sector.

Slovenian petrol stations do not alter their prices near motorways – in contrast to their counterparts in Austria where highway filling stations are more expensive than facilities of such kind located elsewhere.

People’s Party’s (ÖVP) Economy Minister Reinhold Mitterlehner recently announced plans to create a so-called fuel price corridor. The programme is meant to keep managers of filling stations from jacking up their prices ahead of holidays and other periods with increased traffic volumes.

The pricing corridor – which follows the establishment of a price comparison platform – should, according to the economy minister, ensure that firms do not charge more than the average price for the seven to 10 days prior to crucial periods like long weekends and the start of holidays.

Mitterlehner revealed that he had been receiving hundreds of letters and e-mails a day from people complaining about a lack of action against petrol stations’ decisions. He compared his step with a measure of self-defence and made clear that drivers "must not suffer under mineral oil enterprises’ arbitrariness".

Around 356,000 cars were bought in Austria last year, 8.4 per cent more than in 2010. More than 4.5 million vehicles are currently registered for usage in the country. Volkswagen (VW) has been Austrians’ favoured brand for years. The German carmaker recorded 65,000 sales in Austria in 2011. Opel took second place (26,000).

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