This fundamentally undermines the arguments of the House of Commons Trade and Industry Select Committee in its first report into vehicle pricing which accused the fleet industry of being partly responsible for car prices in the UK being higher than on the Continent. Committee chairman Martin O'Neill (Labour, Ochil) called for fleets to be 'named and shamed' if they received large discounts, to the anger of the Association of Car Fleet Operators and the Retail Motor Industry Federation.
The Fleet News investigation shows that while the face value of the retail deals on offer is impressive, there are still more benefits to owning a fleet car. Drivers buying their own vehicles have to find a deposit for half the price of the car to enjoy 0% finance terms, and arrange insurance. Even under free insurance arrangements, as deals often only last for one year.
But the benefits of a company car are not achieved at the expense of private car buyers. In just a few minutes at a dealership in Peterborough, Fleet News had obtained 7% off a new T-plate Rover 416i, down from £14,845 to £13,795. That was offered as a 'starting point' for negotiation. But there was also two years' free servicing, worth a further £400, and 0% finance over two years if a 50% deposit was paid, worth a further £964 if 7% interest of £482 a year was saved. Overall this gives an effective discount of 16.3%.
At a Fiat dealership there were thousands of pounds worth of incentives. For fleet buyers a 10% discount for cash was offered, equivalent to around £1,300 off a Fiat Brava 100 16-valve HSX, worth £12,891. But for a private buyer, on top of a negotiable, the retail customer was also offered a year's free insurance, worth around £300 to £400 and 0% finance if a 50% deposit was paid, worth a further £900 in saved interest. Even without the discount, the face value of the fleet deal has been equalled.
At Arriva Nissan, in Peterborough, an 8% discount on a Primera 2.0-litre SX was offered combined with another 0% finance deal with 50% deposit, worth a total of 15% of the list price. A salesman said the private buyer would be able to achieve the same level of discount available to a fleet. Fifty miles down the A1 in Letchworth, a salesman for Norton Way Mazda said private buyers were better off than fleets.