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Petrol close to peak

Just a sniff away: Toyota Australia’s director, sales and marketing David Buttner, believes petrol prices have almost reached a peak.

Toyota calm on fuel prices - but looks to diesel for the future

Toyota logo4 Jul 2005

By NEIL MCDONALD

WITH petrol prices heading towards $1.20 a litre and world crude oil prices crashing through $US60 a barrel earlier this week, Australian car-makers could be forgiven for being a little nervous.

However, Toyota Australia’s director, sales and marketing David Buttner, believes prices have almost reached a peak.

"Look, we’re being told there’s no expectation it’s going to go much higher," Mr Buttner said. "We track it pretty closely because it’s just such an important issue from a purchase aspect."Mr Buttner said despite rising petrol prices there had been little knock-on effect with car buyers, although some larger 4WD sales had dropped off.

"You can’t deny some of that is attributable to fuel prices," he said. "But Prado is still holding up. LandCruiser has dropped fractionally but nothing of any great significance. But that whole segment has dropped, too."Mr Buttner said slowing large-4WD sales were being offset by the medium-SUV segment, which continues to perform strongly.

He also believed diesel passenger cars could play a strong role in Toyota’s local line-up, supplementing the Prius hybrid car, which is proving popular with both fleets and private buyers.

"Because Toyota is aspiring to nine million vehicles and a 15 per cent world market share they are really focused in Europe, which is a very strong diesel market," he said.

Toyota’s diesel joint venture with Peugeot was bearing fruit and Toyota generally was increasingly focussed on the development of diesel technology, he said.

But the biggest hurdle locally remains infrastructure.

"The infrastructure (for diesel) is just not there," he said. "Most diesel pumps are at truck stops."He believes the issue of cleaner diesel pumps for passenger cars was a lobbying role for the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries on behalf of industry.

"If the petrol companies see a serious role for diesel, I think it will just happen," he said.

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