Automobile: Gas stations suffer (also) from the crisis

The automobile covers a wide spectrum of activities in its wake. Dealers, garages, gas stations and even tolls… All depend on the movement of vehicles on the roads. With COVID-19, and confinement in March and November, the automotive sector is not so rosy for all professionals in the industry. In addition, the phasing out of petrol stations in rural areas further widens inequalities, creating huge “white areas”. This situation is particularly difficult for this activity, which is so central to the proper operation of the vehicles. And what about the massive arrival of electric vehicles… A full share of the soaring market.

The rise of electric cars a blow for petrol stations

Gas stations remain essential, a must-have point of passage to fill the tank of your vehicle before a dry breakdown. Gasoline, diesel or LPG are fuels that are found everywhere. Today, however, the face of the French automobile is being redesigned and evolving.

Indeed, more and more electric vehicles are entering the road in France, to the detriment of other types of cars. Thus, in 2020, there were 80,564 new registrationsof electric cars. This is much more than in 2011 (2626 registrations), or in 2015 (17,240 registrations). Vehicles for which the french service stations have not yet provided a solution.

They use electricity through charging stations. Although some so-called “hybrid” cars combine fuel and energy, the rise of the all-electric system makes gas station professionals cringe.

Electric vehicle registration
Electric vehicles are on the increasing ery. Clean Automobile Source

This evolution of the automotive market is also combined with the COVID-19 pandemic, where there is less travel. Apart from a few people who continue to go to work every day, the majority of employees stay at home, adopting telework. A format that is not without touching the automotive sector in its broadest sense.

The most vulnerable are gas stations located in rural areas. Areas that are less crowded, but whose activity relies on locals who travel every day to make purchases, or work. The rise in telework was very bad news, a sign of great difficulties for these independent service stations.

Following the first containment, on 11 May, 4% of them went bankrupt, half of them said they were heavily impacted by the containment. This is still evident in the second containment.

Towards an evolution of supply to survive over time

For drivers in rural areas, the disappearance of petrol stations is bad news. As in medical deserts, motorists wishing to refuel will have to make an even longer journey. In 2020, 2.5% of French people are affected, and travel at least 30 kilometres to access a gas station.

This demonstrates the gradual but alarming disappearance of these infrastructures. In 1980, there were more than 40,000 service stations in the country. Today, there are only 11,000, including 5900 traditional gas stations. That is, a four-way split of the offer. In order to combat the closure and phasing out of these rural businesses, the Senate Finance Committee is setting up aid for these trades.

Full tank petrol car
Gas stations offer conventional fuels but need to be modernized.

The 2021 Finance Act Project is amending the funding for the Services, Crafts and Trade Intervention Fund (FISAC) program. In sum, it grants it an endowment of 30 million euros. A welcome aid that supports handicrafts and local businesses in rural areas, whose disappearance would be terrible.

For gas stations, the main challenge is to modernize to meet changing needs. Notably by setting up more fuel offers, but also the presence of electric charging stations to recharge his vehicle. Thus, of the 30 million euros for FISAC, the Senate keeps 5 million euros for the evolution of gas stations. A project of the future, to allow these independents to be able, once again, to replenish the filling of customers.


  1. 5 million euros for petrol stations through FISAC 2021, FNA communiqué published on 9 November 2020
  2. The crisis is hitting small stations head-on,Article de Caradisiac of 24 April 2020
  3. Electric car sales and registration figures in France,Clean Automobile infographics from November 14, 2020
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