Soaring petrol prices hardly affect Austrians’ love for cars

Traffic researchers and motorists’ associations are at odds over how to react to rising fuel prices.

Investigations by car club Arbö show that the average price for one litre of diesel fuel reached a four-year record last Monday at 1.397 Euros. The price for petrol shot up too, according to the association. Arbö and ÖAMTC, Austria’s leading drivers’ organisations, said the Austrian government coalition of Social Democrats (SPÖ) and the People’s Party (ÖVP) must reduce taxes on mineral oil to free car owners from some of the pressure.

News that car fuel prices are on the rise come on the heels of information that garages are charging higher prices for repairs than they did some years ago. Insurance costs and other essential products and services of daily life became more costly as well in Austria in 2011, according to statisticians.

The Austrian Traffic Club (VCÖ), which promotes environmentally-friendly individual traffic options, said yesterday (Tues) federal decision-makers and regional political leaders in Austria must spend higher sums on cycling paths. The organisation deplored that such initiatives were still rare across the country.

Latest traffic investigations indicate that the number of Austrians opting for public transport instead of individual motorised traffic may increase in the long run. At the same time, politicians and researchers are aware of polls which disclose that nine in 10 car owners rule out giving up their vehicles for more eco-friendly alternatives.

Only on Monday, the VCÖ presented a new survey on car traffic. The check reveals that one in 11 distances people cover by car are shorter than one kilometre (km). The investigation also shows that there are 616 cars per 1,000 inhabitants in Burgenland. This ratio ranks the eastern province ahead of the country’s eight other regions. Analysts point out that many residents of Burgenland are working in Lower Austria and Vienna – and prefer going there by car. Poor public transport connections are to blame, according to some experts.

Lower Austria comes second in this concern (610 cars per 1,000 residents), with Carinthia (590) in third and Upper Austria (587) in fourth. Vienna finds itself on the bottom of the chart as just 394 of 1,000 people living in the capital city – which has 1.7 million residents – possess a car. However, VCÖ data also shows that Vienna is not far from the Austrian average of 36 km when it comes to the overall distance its citizens cover by car a day (35 km). The organisation found that there are no significant differences in this concern among the nine Austrian provinces. Carinthians drive their cars the most on average (38 km), according to figures presented by VCÖ.

The traffic research agency’s investigations also show that cars are occupied by just the driver most of the time in Austria as the average number of people in a vehicle is 1.07. Car sharing companies are recording rising interest in their services, especially in industrialised areas. However, Austria is still struggling to catch up in this concern in international comparison.

The current crisis and various tax hikes did not cause austerity among the country’s residents last year – at least as far as car sales are regarded. Statistik Austria announced last month that 356,145 new vehicles were registered for usage in Austria 2011 – up by 8.4 per cent compared to 2010, the previous record year for car sales. Volkswagen (VW) was identified as Austrians’ favoured brand once more in 2011 when 65,000 VW models were sold in the alpine country. VW’s key rival Opel came second (26,000), followed by Renault / Dacia (24,000) and Ford (23,700).