Fuel retail and service station statistics - NACE Rev. 1.1

From Statistics Explained

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Data from January 2009. Most recent data: Further Eurostat information, Main tables and Database.

This article belongs to a set of statistical articles which analyse the structure, development and characteristics of the various economic activities in the European Union (EU). According to the statistical classification of economic activities in the EU (NACE Rev 1.1), the present article covers statistics for fuel and service stations, corresponding to NACE Group 50.5, which is part of the motor trades sector. The activities covered in this article are the retail sale of automotive fuel, lubricating and cooling products for motor vehicles and motorcycles. It does not include the wholesale trade of automotive fuel.

Figure 1: Retail sale of automotive fuel. At the pump prices of petroleum products, first half of 2008 (EUR/litre) (1)

Main statistical findings

Table 1: Retail sale of automotive fuel (NACE Group 50.5). Structural profile: ranking of top five Member States in terms of value added and persons employed, 2006
Figure 2: Retail sale of automotive fuel (NACE Group 50.5). Index of turnover, EU-27 (2000=100)

During 2007 and 2008, the retail price for automotive fuel changed greatly, reflecting the volatility in the price of crude oil. The EU-27 harmonised index of consumer prices for fuels and lubricants for personal transport equipment grew by just over 32 % between January 2007 and its peak in July 2008, but by December 2008 the index had fallen back to a level just below that at the start of 2007.

The retail (pump) price (including VAT and other taxes) was generally lower, in most Member States, for a litre of automotive diesel than for a litre of unleaded petrol, with Belgium and the Netherlands recording diesel prices more than 20 % lower than petrol prices. In contrast, Estonia, Slovakia and the United Kingdom recorded diesel prices 5 % or more higher than petrol prices.

One of the main energy policy targets of the EU is to increase the share of renewable energy sources in gross inland consumption. In January 2008, the European Commission proposed Directive COM(2008) 19 on renewable energy sources  that included a target that renewable energy should account for 10 % of transport fuel in each Member State by 2020. Biofuels are among the main renewable energy sources used for transport. The proposed increase in the use of biofuels has led, however, to concerns about its impact on food prices and deforestation, and to proposals to support the development of biofuels that are more sustainable and do not compete with food and animal feed production.

Structural profile

In 2006, there were 73.8 thousand enterprises classified to the retail sale of automotive fuel (NACE Group 50.5) in the EU-27, less than 10 % of all motor trades enterprises. These enterprises generated EUR 178.0 billion of turnover, from which resulted EUR 14.0 billion of value added, 13.4 % and 8.6 % of the motor trades (NACE Division 50) total respectively. This sector employed half a million people, 11.8 % of the motor trades workforce.

The United Kingdom recorded EUR 3.0 billion of value added in the retail sale of automotive fuel in 2006, some 21.8 % of the EU-27 total. Note that the contribution of France to the EU-27 total for this sector was as low as 5.7 % in terms of value added, reflecting the fact that in France (and a number of other Member States) a large proportion of fuel is sold through service stations that belong to retailers classified within retail trade (NACE Division 52) rather than the retailing of automotive fuels.

The development of the EU-27 turnover index for the retail sale of automotive fuels was not as steady as that of motor trades as a whole, particularly in the period between1998 and 2005. The retail sale of automotive fuels grew strongly in 1999 before flattening out between 2000 and 2002, at a time of continued growth across motor trades as a whole. This was followed by four years of much stronger growth through to 2005. It should be noted that this turnover index is only provided in current prices and therefore reflects price changes. As such, changes in oil prices have to be considered when analysing this data, as the volume of automotive fuel may have fallen while sales in value terms rose (due to significant price increases).

Expenditure and productivity

Purchases of goods and services represented 96.0 % of total operating expenditure for the EU-27’s retail sale of automotive fuel, and correspondingly personnel costs accounted for the remaining 4.0 %. This share of personnel costs was the second lowest of all NACE groups within the non-financial business economy for which 2005 or 2006 data are available, higher only than for petroleum refining.

The wage-adjusted labour productivity of the EU-27's automotive fuel retailing sector was 171.1 % in 2006, practically the same as recorded for the sale of motor vehicles subsector (see Car and motorcycle trade statistics - NACE Rev. 1.1). This relatively high ratio resulted from a relatively low apparent labour productivity of EUR 27.8 thousand per person employed, and a particularly low average personnel cost of EUR 16.3 thousand per employee, which was the eighth lowest of the non-financial business economy NACE groups.

Data sources and availability

The main part of the analysis in this article is derived from structural business statistics (SBS), including core, business statistics which are disseminated regularly, as well as information compiled on a multi-yearly basis, and the latest results from development projects.

Other data sources include short-term statistics (STS) and Eurostat energy statistics.


The activities within this sector are very different in terms of the frequency of purchase of the goods and services offered. In contrast to the retail of automotive fuel, the purchase of motor vehicles is usually the result of a long-term process, the collection of information and comparison between different vehicles and different suppliers. However, retailing and repair of motor vehicles are to some extent substitutes, in that the purchase of a replacement vehicle may often be postponed, particularly in times of economic hardship.

Further Eurostat information


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See also