In T&T: Car dealers watching sales

5 October 2012


Furore over gas price hike continues, affects those other than users of “higher-end models.”

New car dealers operating in Trinidad and Tobago say they will be watching sales in the coming months to determine if the price hike in premium gasoline affects what models of vehicles motorists buy.

Finance Minister Larry Howai announced in Monday’s national budget that premium gasoline would be increased from $4 a litre to $5.75 effective Tuesday.

In response to emailed questions from the Express about the possible impact of the price increase, president of the Automotive Dealers Association of Trinidad and Tobago Philip Knaggs said: “We will have to pay close attention to market sales figures in order to measure the effect, if any, over the course of the upcoming months.”

He said most dealers, “not unlike the public, probably anticipated some movement to reduce the fuel subsidy of $4.5 billion. This is now seen as a possible first step, an introduction to the public of other fuel subsidy measures that may appear in fiscal 2013. It seems that the door to regularisation is open.”

Asked to respond to a statement earlier this week by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar that the price hike would affect only drivers of “high-end” vehicles like Audis and BMWs, Knaggs responded Wednesday: “The recommended use of premium gas varies not as much by brand as it does by the individual models themselves. The percentage of vehicles that are recommended to use premium does increase in the higher-end models, but there are some middle-segment vehicles in that recommended category as well.”

He said his information was that the consumption of premium gas was nine per cent (by volume) of the total fuel sold on the market.

“Using that figure, one could reasonably assume that nine per cent of vehicles on our market are using premium gas,” he said.

Asked if it was advisable for drivers using premium gas to switch to the cheaper super fuel, as was suggested earlier this week by Persad-Bissessar and Howai, Knaggs said: “One should always pay attention to the manufacturer’s recommendations when it comes to the type of fuel used by a particular vehicle. Some vehicles are mandated to use high octane gas, some are not. There are other vehicles can use either super or premium fuel with no noticeable effects outside of performance. If an owner decides to step outside of the fuel specifications published by the manufacturer, then they should clearly understand the risks beforehand. My advice would be to contact your local dealer at time of servicing, and have a discussion regarding fuel type and the repercussions of switching fuel. In some cases it may be reasonable to do so, in some cases it would not.”

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