MPs from all sides of the political spectrum turned on corporate purchasing as they questioned representatives from the motor industry, dealers and consumer groups about new car pricing. Fleets were accused of obtaining 'huge' discounts and using their bulk buying power causing manufacturers to hike up prices for private buyers to restore their bottom line profit. They were also accused of 'dumping' cars on the used market with no considerations for the effect it would have on the residual values of private buyers.
During the select committee's day-long evidence-gathering investigation of UK new car prices John Butterfill, Conservative MP for Bournemouth West, called for an investigation of the power and influence of the fleet market, while committee chairman Martin O'Neill (Labour, Ochil) claimed private buyers were 'being taken to the cleaners' compared to fleet buyers.
But Tony Leigh, chairman of the Association of Car Fleet Operators, hit back saying: 'They have lumped together all areas of the fleet industry. We could have dealt with a lot of the misunderstandings if they had allowed us to appear, because they have shown a total lack of understanding.' ACFO submitted a 1,000-word summary of its position to the select committee, but director Stewart Whyte said the association should have been asked to the meeting to defend itself.