Fleet News

Fleets savaged in DTI UK car price investigation

FLEETS have suffered a scathing attack at the hands of a Department of Trade and Industry select committee investigating why British car prices are the most expensive in Europe. MPs and consumer groups accused the fleet industry of being partly responsible for car prices in the UK being higher than on the Continent, because private buyers were effectively subsidising huge discounts given to corporate buyers.

During heated exchanges, the car industry was repeatedly accused of 'ripping off' British consumers. John Butterfill, Conservative MP for Bournemouth West, said the power and influence of the fleet market should be investigated, saying there was 'a monopoly in purchasing of those with great power which are operating to the disadvantage of the consumer'.

Bob Laxton, Labour member for Derby North, accused fleets of commanding 'huge' discounts which distorted the market place. Andrew McIlwraith, of the Consumers Association, said: 'If fleet buyers are getting discounts of up to 50% then one can't help feeling that the private buyer is subsidising this. If that is true, then it does distort the market.'

MPs suggested that fleets' bulk buying power be curbed, so the difference between private buyers and fleet buyer prices could be levelled out. In a report handed to the committee, the National Franchised Dealers Association, whose panel included Graeme Potts, chief executive of Reg Vardy and Alan Smith, chief executive of Evans Halshaw, said: 'The influence of the fleet and business sector in the UK market infrastructure continues to be the principle reason behind the current price differentials.' The committee is expected to report its findings before Christmas.

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