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Additive sales rise along with gas prices


Record-high gas prices—topping out at a $4.55 per gallon on average in California last month—have consumers searching for ways to get better gas mileage. And that’s why auto retailers are seeing a big increase in sales of fuel additives and other products designed to get maximum performance from car engines.

According to The NPD Group, sales of fuel additives increased 11% during the first four months of the year and are likely to climb even higher this summer. “There’s no doubt consumers are highly motivated to save money at the pump and one way they’re trying to do that is through fuel additives,” said David Portalatin, director of industry analysis for The NPD Group’s automotive division. “And that’s a really dramatic increase given the fact that total auto parts retail sales are up just 2%.”

Consumers are buying products like Lucas fuel-injector cleaner, Gumout and STP gas treatments that help clean engines and keep them running more efficiently. The products range in price from $2 to $12 and are carried at auto part retailers like AutoZone as well as mass merchants.

Those sales are also being driven by a reduction in consumer spending on new cars. “Consumers are putting off buying new cars so more people are driving cars with higher mileage, which is helping drive fuel additive sales,” said Portalatin.

But there’s some skepticism about whether those fuel additives work, something reflected in a study released by the Federal Trade Commission in 2006. “The EPA has evaluated or tested more than 100 alleged gas-saving devices and has not found any product that significantly improves gas mileage,” the study said. “In fact, some gas saving products may damage a car’s engine and no government agency endorses gas-saving devices for cars.”

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