Bucking the trend on vehicles

WESTERN Australia is bucking the national trend in new motor vehicle sales, with recent figures showing an increase in sales despite steeply rising petrol prices. Australian Bureau of Statistics data for the March quarter shows sales of new motor vehicles in WA, seasonally adjusted, were up 8 per cent to 25,519 on the previous corresponding period. Nationally, the sale of total new vehicles has fallen 3.5 per cent to 244,058. Motor Trade Association of Western Australia executive director Peter Fitzpatrick said there had been a shift to light, more fuel-efficient vehicles in WA during the past three months with a fall off in the less fuel-efficient vehicles. Mr Fitzpatrick told WA Business News the state’s strong economic performance was likely to shield the luxury vehicle market from the effects of rising oil prices. “[However] the oil price hike is only the beginning of a long-term problem,” he said. “When you have got a country like China with growth of 10 per cent, it is hard to see how they will not use extra oil, which will see prices stay high.” In his Executive Comment from February, Mr Fitzpatrick said the looming oil crisis would not be short-lived and represented the onset of a new, permanent condition with estimates suggesting production dropping 3 per cent per year. “Australia itself is facing a bleak future in terms of oil self-sufficiency,” he said. “Within 10 years, Australia may be forced to import up to 60 per cent to 70 per cent of its oil needs in what will become a very competitive international market.” Mr Fitzpatrick said the motor industry, more than any other, had a vested interest in addressing the problem of increasing fuel prices as the industry may struggle to remain profitable with the reduction in new motor vehicles. “The development of viable and renewable fuels and better use of current oil reserves are the keys to investing in our future,” he said. The soaring petrol prices are having a detrimental affect on the state’s transport and aviation industries. Sadleir Transport Pty Ltd divisional director Frank Cook said the company had to pass on the increase in fuel price to customers. “In order to maintain a level of viability, you have to pass it on,” he said. “The industry is going to suffer. It’s an area that the transport industry has no control over.” This view was echoed by Transport Forum chief executive officer Debra Goostrey, who said increases in costs such as petrol prices would immediately be passed on to clients. “The price increase will have a significant impact on sectors such as the rural sector through increasing the cost of carting, which will ultimately affect consumers,” she said. Mrs Goostrey said there was a national focus on the heavy vehicle transport with a move towards further productivity in the sector. “The more productive we are [through the number of trucks on the road], the less petrol we will be using per tonnage,” she said. Skippers Aviation Pty Ltd chief executive Rob Swann said the soaring oil price was making airfares more expensive and therefore pricing certain customers out of travelling. “We are seeing a drop off in business travel in some of smaller destinations, including Meekatharra and Laverton,” he said. “If we push up the price on tickets, then we don’t get the customers.”

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