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Late-plate Mondeo and Vectra's 'great value'

Retail optimism remains quite high but there is still no shortage of late-plate cars around - especially Ford and Vauxhall. This means 98 and 99S plate Mondeo LX and Vectra LS are available in reasonable numbers at around £8,200 if sourced individually.

At that money they look great retail value at £8,995, just over half of list price. However, with deals like these there is increasing pressure on new car sales.

In the C sector we are seeing a similar story with Astra LS retailing around £8,995 and, perhaps surprisingly to some observers, Ford Focus frequently retailing at £1,000 more. It is important to note that Focus is nearing the end of its honeymoon period and the price gap is narrowing.

Ford has done a good job of releasing the car into the marketplace in a controlled way, ensuring it has not been around in too great numbers. Closer harmonisation with Astra will come as the numbers grow, but not overnight.

As well as relative supply levels there is also the fact that, despite its innovative look and quality, in the end the Focus will have to compete with Astra on price. If you think like a private buyer who is looking at a Focus for £9,995 and an Astra at £8,995 there will come a point when the extra £1,000 will not seem justified.

Anyone who disagrees with this notion should look back a couple of months when the gap was £2,000. We have seen the same situation with Mercedes S Class and BMW 7 Series. Even though there are bigger differences in spec and engines, with direct comparisons therefore less easy to make, it all comes down to relative retail demand.

Nothing is sacred in a free market.

As for the general outlook, the trade is viewing August and September with some confidence, expecting greater showroom traffic on new and used cars. The usual complaints are being voiced over the availability of nice mid-mileage three-to-five year-old cars although there are plenty of three-year-old ex-lease cars as well as late-plate ex-rental stock.

Hopes are that a busy August and September will bring in some of these missing 'in-between' cars.

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