Fleet News

Carbusters launch sparks row

A FURIOUS row has broken out between a senior fleet industry leader and the Consumers' Association over the role the organisation has played in the UK new car pricing debate. The association was behind the 'Great British Rip Off' campaign designed to force vehicle manufacturers to cut new car prices, but simultaneously it launched its own internet-based car buying site - Carbusters.com.

However, a downside of the campaign has been tumbling residual values, leaving the 'cost to change' for fleets and private buyers unchanged from before the campaign was launched.

Instead, the campaign has been responsible for massive uncertainty among new and used car buyers and manufacturers and has knocked millions of pounds off the value of vehicles owned by contract hire and rental companies, fleets, dealers and manufacturers.

Colin Tourick, managing director of Associates Fleet Services, said: 'The Consumers' Association has lost the right in the car market to be treated as the independent voice of the consumer because it has launched Carbusters.com. There is no regulatory authority to control what the association does or does not do. Claims being made by the association are designed to hype up its own internet business.

'I don't mind anyone in the industry making their voice heard; but the association is the voice of the consumer and as soon as it steps in and starts competing against the industry they stop being the voice of the consumer.'

However, the association has hit back against the criticism and says the campaign has been a 'total success' and despite admitting the cost of change would not be dramatically affected, it does not feel it has let consumers down in any way.

An association spokeswoman said: 'Manufacturers have been getting away with overcharging in the UK for a long time, the campaign has exposed this and they are bringing their prices down now. From these results, the Consumers' Association has nothing to apologise for. When manufacturers did not move their prices, we made the decision to import cars, but we did not go about it lightly.'

Since carbusters.com was launched in March, it has regularly attracted 13,500 visitors a week - but has only secured 1,487 confirmed orders. However, as delivery time takes an average of four months, only a third of UK customers who have placed an order have actually had their cars delivered.

The association added: 'We see the site as being a success even though nearly all the visitors to the site are not buying the cars. If anything it shows that people are shopping around, looking at their options and trying to find the best deal, which was our aim in the first place. We also believe that customers are looking at internet sites, getting quotes and are using it as a bargaining ploy when they go into their high street dealers.'

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