Direct Line's bid to compete with franchised dealers follows announcements by both P&O Stena Line and Sir Richard Branson's Virgin group. However, such moves were condemned this week by Alan Pulham, director of the National Franchised Dealers' Association, who said such schemes were 'opportunistic' as a result of the strong pound and were unsustainable.
'Such moves are a knee-jerk reaction to a unique set of circumstances,' said Pulham. In the long term, price parity will happen. The pound is unsustainable at current levels and will collapse. At this point, these firms could be out of business and the partnership arrangements they have will flounder.' Although the new and used car buying service is not being aimed directly at fleets, Direct Line is hoping to be able to sell ex-fleet vehicles. Deals are being signed with an as yet unnamed partner, who will deal direct with sourcing of vehicles.