Diesel remains more expensive than petrol at the pump despite lower wholesale prices, RAC finds

Despite the wholesale price of diesel being cheaper than petrol for all of June, motorists are still paying 3p a litre more at the pumps, RAC research has found.

The RAC’s Fuel Watch report for June shows wholesale prices of diesel are 1p to 3p a litre lower than petrol yet the average price of diesel is 120p per litre, compared to 117ppl for petrol.

While some retailers have closed the gap between petrol and diesel on the forecourt, very few – if any – have moved their diesel price below petrol, says the RAC.

In fact, the vast majority of retailers continue to keep a significant gap between the two fuels with diesel often 5ppl  more expensive.

The latter group may be operating on wafer thin margins on petrol in order to remain competitive and trading this off against bigger margins on diesel in order to balance the books, says the RAC.

Simon Williams. RAC fuel spokesman, said: “The retail price of diesel has almost become a taboo subject despite 2.4 billion litres being sold in May, compared to just 1.5bn litres of petrol.

"While there are twice as many petrol cars on the road, the increase in diesel usage shown in Government statistics and the new car sales figures which show more than 50% of cars and light commercial vehicles leaving the showroom are powered by diesel, confirm that we are increasingly relying on diesel for both business and private use.

“Not only are diesel drivers now being demonised due to the increasing concerns over harmful nitrogen dioxide and particulate emissions, they are consistently having to pay a premium for their fuel.

"And, all this comes after years in which the taxation system has encouraged motorists to buy low CO2 vehicles. This has led to a big take-up of small fuel efficient diesel vehicles by motorists believing their choice of vehicle was good for the environment as well as their pocket.

“While retailers are obviously free to choose how much they charge for petrol and diesel, we believe that motorists deserve to be treated fairly and that means forecourt prices that reflect the wholesale market.”

The RAC’s Fuel Watch report shows that the price of diesel should drop by around 5p a litre in the next two weeks based on lower wholesale prices, although the motoring organisation has seen this throughout June with little to no forecourt price change so therefore has little hope of this saving being passed on.

Simon Williams added: “Essentially, what is required is a fundamental re-balance of pricing in the retail fuel market.

"We need greater transparency and a fairer pricing model for both petrol and diesel.

"We realise that with more and more forecourts shutting up shop every month that fuel retailing may not be as profitable as it once was, but there seems to be a clear intention to make more money from a higher diesel price while at the same time being seen to maintain a lower petrol price.

“We as a nation of motorists are far more focused on petrol prices and therefore there is a perceived benefit from a retailer’s point of view in keeping petrol prices lower for the country’s 20m petrol car owners than it is for the 10m-plus diesel car drivers.”

June saw fuel prices maintain an even keel for motorists as a result of oil prices staying flat and the pound remaining stable too. The average price of a litre of petrol was 117p – 14p cheaper than 12 months ago, and diesel was 120.75p – 15p cheaper. Both have gone up since the early February average price lows of 106p for unleaded and 113p for diesel.

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