California’s gas-car phaseout brings turmoil to mom-and-pop gas stations
In the fall of 2010, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was planning on pulling the plug on the state’s gas-guzzling automobile fleet. Instead, he proposed a “net-penalty” plan of raising the state’s fuel tax an average of 18 cents a gallon over the next 10 years for every vehicle on the road.
Nearly two years later, after a decade and roughly $22 billion spent, the state has only succeeded in reducing vehicle miles driven by 10 percent. And its drivers have seen an uptick in gas prices more than 25 percent.
“It was the best year,” said Tom Sargent, a 47-year-old sales manager for a local convenience store chain. “But we’ve got a long way to go.”
The gas-car phaseout is a national phenomenon. The United States as a whole has lost more than 14 million passenger cars since 2010, according to the Federal Highway Administration.
In California, the gas-guzzling fleet has left 730,000 parked in local gas stations across the state. A similar trend is also taking place in Oregon, New Mexico and other states that have taken similar steps.
Many gas stations are now barely able to keep the pumps running because of the increased competition, but others are not affected, and some have done well.
“I’m doing better than ever,” said Bill Smith, owner of a station in the San Fernando Valley. “We’re doing great.”
More than a year after the recession, the auto industry is beginning to struggle to find new ways to sell its cars.
“Most folks have only used them once,” said Dan W. Snyder, the president and CEO of the Automobile Dealership Association, a trade group for dealerships across the country. “They have no brand loyalty. They’re just taking them out once in a while to service them.”
Gas prices are on the rise, but at the same time, many vehicle owners are starting to question the long-term viability of these cars for them.
In 2010, the average price of a gallon of fuel was $3.76 in California.
Since then, according to data from the Automotive News Data Center, the price has increased an average of 15.4 cents per gallon.
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