Drivers and auto dealers yesterday disputed statements by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar that motorists driving only "high-end" vehicles, like BMWs and Audis, will be affected by the 44 per cent price hike in premium gasoline.
In what could have been described as true "Trini" fashion, most users of premium gasoline seemed to accept the increased cost at service stations yesterday.
As of midnight on Monday, the cost of premium gasoline increased from $4 per litre to $5.75 per litre following Finance Minister Larry Howai's announcement in Parliament during his budget presentation.
The Prime Minister told reporters only six per cent of drivers who were able to afford the premium increase would be affected.
But checks with car dealers by the Express and interviews with drivers indicated that several vehicle brands between three and five years old—including Nissans, Mazdas, Toyotas, Subarus, Kias, Fords, Suzukis, Hondas and Hyundais—all use premium gasoline.
Many of these are regarded as compact or mid-size sedans—not luxury, high-end vehicles.
Audit and accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers said, in its budget review yesterday, premium gas is the least subsidised of gases.
"Based on information provided by the Energy Chamber in its presentation to UWI Management in July of this year, the subsidy on premium gas was only $0.73 per litre, while that on super gasoline was $1.83 and on diesel $2.71. Real savings are therefore likely to come only when the measure is extended to the other fuels."
Drivers were not happy about the increase yesterday.
"It's a little ridiculous for a country that manufactures gasoline to have to suffer that extra cost," said Aneal Boodoo, of San Juan, who estimates his monthly fuel bill will increase from $800 to $1,200.
"I understand why they have to do it, but they should have done it better, not so drastic," he added, as he pulled away from the NP Service Station at Tragarete Road, Port of Spain, yesterday.
Renee, from Maraval, said yesterday: "My husband told me yesterday to fill up before the price change, but I told him I didn't have time."
Renee agreed to let the Express observe while she filled up in order to work out the difference.
Her total was $287, up from about $200.
"Oh, eighty bucks more! That's not too bad," she said.
She clarified: "I'm originally from Vancouver, Canada. This price is still way lower than what I would pay at home."
When the Express visited a Unipet gas station in Westmoorings, customer Elysse Marcelin, of Diego Martin, said: "I drive a Suzuki Swift. That's hardly a luxury vehicle. I have a problem with that statement because it's not only the rich people driving premium vehicles."
She added that she is still in school so this is just an extra burden and she would now have to ask her parents to subsidise her.