The announcement comes just two weeks before the deadline for comments on the Competition Commission inquiry on May 19, which has thrown fleet discounts under the spotlight and seen them attacked by MPs and lobby groups, provoking an investigation by the Competition Commission as part of its New Cars Inquiry. Members of the House of Commons Trade and Industry Select Committee went as far as demanding that fleets which obtain discounts should be 'named and shamed'. Stan Ayling, head of commercial operations for the Inland Revenue, who was responsible for the tender and is chairman of the Tender Board which awarded the contract, refused to be drawn into the debate on discounts.
But he said: 'Choice will clearly be heavily influenced by each manufacturer's level of discount and the respective wholelife costs which have emerged from this tender.' Although discount levels are not being discussed, they are believed to have increased each time the contract has been awarded. The new contract - awarded to Citroen, Fiat, Ford, Nissan, Peugeot and Vauxhall - brings to an end a solus supply arrangement with Vauxhall which had been in place since the launch of the scheme in 1995. At least 6,500 vehicles are expected to be purchased in the latest contract, although the number could increase as more Government departments are expected to join the scheme.