A recent Fleet News Fleet Panel investigation found that fleet decision-makers believe imports' shorter warranties, longer delivery times and lower specification levels make the risk of buying abroad exceed the value of the potential savings.
New figures from the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency, analysed by R.L. Polk & Co, show that the number of unofficial imports registered in the UK totalled just 5,622 units between April and June, compared to 33,909 in the first quarter of this year – and 85,499 for the whole of 2001.
The figures are based on the difference between new DVLA registrations and the new car sales figures published by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders. Polk suggests the decline may be due to the gradual reduction of UK list prices for new cars and the high level of discounts and incentives currently available through UK dealers.
Internet car supplier Drivethedeal.com, which sources its cars in the UK, claims its own research indicates that the majority of UK franchised dealer-supplied cars are better value than imported cars.
It found, for example, that a UK-sourced Citroen Xsara Picasso 2.0 HDI costs £2,172 less than the same model imported unofficially from the continent, while a UK-sourced Renault Scenic 1.6 Dynamique costs £875 less than its parallel import equivalent. However, the Volvo S40 and V40 2.0 SE and the Honda Civic all offered savings as imports.
Richard Sanders, managing director of Drivethedeal.com, said: 'There is a popular misconception that you have to opt for an imported car to get the best value for money, which simply isn't true. Just ensure you obtain a proper discount before you buy. Another advantage is that you can avoid all the uncertainties, pitfalls and form filling that an import can entail.'
However, car supermarket and parallel importer Motorpoint has reported 500 advance orders for September's '52-plates, and forecasts sales of 4,000 cars in the month across its two sites at Derby and Burnley, an increase in sales of more than 30% compared to September 2001.
The company's marketing promises its models are 'all purchased from reliable continental sources, at savings of between 30 and 50%', and highlights popular sellers such as the Vauxhall Zafira 1.8 Elegance at £11,999, a saving of £5,800 on the typical UK dealer list price; the Ford Mondeo 1.8 LX at £11,399 a saving of £3,366 on the typical UK dealer list price; and the Ford Focus Estate TDdi Zetec at £11,299, a saving of £4,384.