Demand for motor gasoline in Japan declined 0.9% (as measured by calendar year shipments minus end of year inventory) to 60 million kiloliters (15.9 billion gallons US) in 2006—the first year-on-year drop in 32 years—according to data released Wednesday by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.
Within the total, demand for premium gasoline fell even more sharply, dropping 5.6% year on year to 10.1 million kiloliters (2.7 billion gallons US). Demand for diesel rose 0.1% to 40.2 million kiloliters (10.6 billion gallons).
The Petroleum Association of Japan has projected that domestic gasoline demand would start to decline in fiscal 2008 as the population ages amid a lower birthrate. But with higher crude oil prices, the decrease occurred sooner than expected, according to The Nikkei. Oil distributors may face a surfeit of output capacity.
Gasoline consumption is falling because of an increase in minivehicle sales as well as the spread of gasoline-electric hybrids, according to The Nikkei.
Total domestic auto sales in Japan fell 1.9% in 2006 to a 20-year low of 5.73 million units in 2006. By contrast, minivehicle purchases rose 5.2% to exceed 2 million units for the first time. The minivehicle figure was up for the third year in a row. Minivehicles now account for 35.3% of total new-automobile sales by volume in Japan.