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(Japan) Gasoline sales to fall for 1st time in 32 years in 2006

Friday, December 29, 2006 at 07:15 EST

TOKYO — Japan's gasoline sales in 2006 are expected to fall from the previous year for the first time since 1974 when sales were hit by the first oil crisis, industry sources said Thursday.

December's sales may fall by 4 to 5% from a year earlier, they said, as the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry reported the same day that sales for the first 11 months of this year posted a year-to-year drop of more than 1 percent to 55.35 million kiloliters. This year's decline in gasoline demand is attributable primarily to sharp price hikes around the summer.
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How about aging population as a factor?

Japan already has an outstanding, and heavily used, public transportation system. I would guess that at some point, too, the aging population will shift demand away from passenger vehicles and (even more heavily) towards public transportation. Could be starting, instigated by high gas prices.

Or, could be a shift towards higher MPG vehicles, for the same reasons. Hybrid vehicles would be especially useful in Japan, with all the stop-and-go city driving there, as opposed to highway miles.
Due to the shaken system, any substantial improvements in auto tech is likely to take hold more rapidly than in the U.S. Cars more than ten years old quickly become too expensive to justify keeping.

Would be interesting to see car sales data and public transport data to see if this drop in gas use is a trend or a blip.


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