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LPG car sales and conversions rising

Conversions cost between $3000 and $4000, depending on the vehicle and technology used.

Sales of LPG-powered cars and conversions of standard cars to LPG have started to climb out of a slump over the past few years.

LPG Australia boss Michael Carmody says the recent low prices of LPG plus the new dedicated models from Holden and Ford had driven demand for new car sales and conversions. Sales of new cars with LPG rose in 2006 when the then Howard Government introduced subsidies of $1500 for conversions and $2000 for new LPG cars for private buyers.

Sales slumped to a low last year of just 81 new private passenger cars with LPG, but more than 300 have been sold so far this year and fleet sales have already surpassed last year's total of 1529. "From 2006 to 2009 the only real dedicated LPG cars was the Ford and in 2009 and '10 they experienced issues with supply," Carmody said.

"Last year there was a period of eight to nine months with no new LPG vehicle in the Ford range. "What has taken over from that was the new dedicated Ford LPI vehicle which is now seeing a boom in sales along with the release this year of Holden's Commodore range. "These are state-of-the-art technology with performance ratings the same or better than petrol models."

Ford brand communications manager Neil McDonald says sales of their EcoLPi Falcon are 19.5 per cent of total Falcon sedan and ute sales. "We're very happy with the sales," he says. "I think (the fluctuation of LPG car sales) is a lot to do with the cycles of the fleet turnover; every three or four years for some private business fleets. "I suppose because there are new offerings in the market that helps."

Ford's EcoLPi (liquid phase injection) is a new technology developed by Ford engineers in Australia. Holden also sells Commodore sedans, wagons, utes and Caprice with a $2500 Liquid Propane Injection (LPI) option on their 3.6-litre V6 models. Senior product communications manager Kate Lonsdale says that since the LPG models were launched in February they have sold about 200 a month, mostly to fleet buyers.

HSV has engineered the LPI system for use in all their cars as a $5990 option in the sedan, and $6390 on a ute. However, spokesman Tim Jackson says they introduced the system when petrol was "extraordinarily high". "From a cost perspective it's not been attractive especially with LCT (Luxury car tax) on top of that," he says.

"The engineering of the system has been extremely well received, and from a sales perspective we are doing around 20 units a year. "The barriers to this volume increasing we believe are partly economic, and partly the preferences of our customer base. The LPi system was conceived as a safeguard against the economic factors prevalent pre-GFC factors which have not been at play in the same way post-GFC."

Carmody said LPG conversions had slumped in the past few years as motorists moved away from six-cylinder family cars to more efficient small cars, diesels and hybrids. "The Australian motorist is also travelling less mileage these days and seeking more fuel-efficient vehicles. The market is changing shape with electric vehicles also on the horizon," he said.

"The growing market for LPG conversions these days is large SUVs." Conversions cost between $3000 and $4000, depending on the vehicle and technology used and the government subsidy has dropped to $1000. But Carmody doesn't believe the industry needs subsidy support. "The industry needs to be less reliant on support from the government," he said.

"The fuel has to be capable of standing on its own two feet." He said the industry had to educate the public about the virtues of LPG. "The good news is that the price of LPG is stable and less than half the price of petrol; it has great green credentials with 15 per cent less emissions; it's available anywhere throughout Australia; and there are decades of the stuff sitting under our ground," he said.

LPG Passenger Sales

  2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012
Private 254 607 337 527 291 288 81 303
Govt / Business 5386 7874 7508 7398 5925 5669 1529 1858


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