Since 1999, crude oil and fuel prices have been rising in Switzerland (in total around 30%). It has, however, until now been unclear which are the short term impacts of these price changes on the driving behaviour the purchase of new cars.
This study analyses the short term impacts of these price changes and compares them with the impacts after the latest increase of mineral oil tax in 1993.
The analysis is looking at both supply and demand of Swiss fuel market. It considers also further impacts such as driving behaviour and the purchase of new cars. For this purpose, different methods were applied: econometric analysis, descriptive statistical analysis and specific surveys of the car sellers.
Fuel market reactions:
The market price changes happened 1999 in a periode with high economic growth. Thus the influence of the income (GDP) is predominant. An income elasticity is estimated at the level of 0.65. That means, if GDP is growing (ceteris paribus) by 10%, fuel sales will grow by 6.5% The influence of the price increase itself is less predominant. The sales decreased especially in the year 2000 (in total by 8%, compared to 1999). It is only possible to show a significant influence of the price increase, if one considers delayed market reactions. The analysis confirmed such an effect. Assuming a one year delay, the econometric analysis results in a price elasticity between -0.3 and -0.4, that means: fuel sales are decreasing by 3 to 4%, if fuel market prices increase by 10%.
The fuel market reaction are comparable with the change of traffic volumes. In general, the traffic volumes develop similarly as the fuel sales. The analysis showed some deviations at the borders and other interesting differences:
- The price changes had lower impact on traffic volumes on highways compared to other roads.
- Weekend traffic volumes showed a bigger change than weekday volumes. That migt be an indication, that leisure traffic is more price sensible. The impact on the car market was analysed by a survey of car sellers. According to them, specific fuel consumption of cars is no important marketing criteria. Most important criteria are comfort, space and equipment, car safety and motor power. Thus car sellers could not observe a significant change in car demand. The most important impact is the strong increase of diesel cars, but this effect can be observed since 1993.
Communication and marketing activities are playing an important role in order to produce synergies in the direction of energy saving car demand and car use. This synergy should be used more actively in the future. At the same time, there should be more information on possible trade offs, such as energy intensive car features.