Fleet News

W-plate on course for fleet record

FLEET buying of W-plate cars looks set to break March records, with few corporate fleet chiefs saying they are postponing traditional replacement cycles in anticipation of massive falls in new car prices. However, some manufacturer fleet chiefs report large fleets demanding upfront discounts or volume-related bonuses which, if given, means European-style acquisition prices are being achieved without fleets resorting to buying abroad.

Both the Consumer's Association and dealers say private buyers are boycotting showrooms in the build-up to W-plate day on Wednesday (March 1) in anticipation of a nosedive in new car prices as a result of the Competition Commission's inquiry into the sale of new cars amid claims of a 'Great British Rip-Off'. However, motor industry experts believe March fleet sales will top last year's record 151,502 units which saw the launch of T-plate cars and heralded the introduction of the twice-a-year-plate change.

Fleet sales in March last year accounted for 40.94% of the month's new car sales which totalled 370,060. However there is a belief in the industry that fleet sales were perhaps slightly down on expectations as not all companies were able to react to the change plate system. Any hold-off in fleet buying is, according to fleet managers, due to concerns over what the Chancellor of the Exchequer might announce in his March 21 Budget particularly concerning company car tax and graduated vehicle excise duty.

However, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders believes March sales could reach 400,000 units and will be slightly above last March's figure as a result of a string of 'deals' being available. However, with the majority of manufacturers opting to hold prices steady and increase value for money by adding specification any hope of a price cut appears to be forlorn.

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