Individual dealerships within several of the top 20 UK motor retail groups are among hundreds of traders bypassing official channels to buy new cars direct from mainland Europe.
The claim comes from RHDimports, a trade-only website opened last month which claims a growing demand from franchised dealers for unofficial imports at “wholesale prices”.
Simon Empson, managing director of Broadspeed and sourcing director of RHDimports, said: “The vast majority of our clients are franchised dealers. Within three weeks more than 500 dealers opened accounts with the company, and registrations are increasing by more than 50 every day. “None of the top 20 groups has negotiated corporate deals, but many of their outlets have signed up on a site-by-site basis.”
RHDimports was founded because 25-30% of the 7,000 Broadspeed.com sales were orders from UK dealers. It offers right-hand drive UK-specification cars at prices offering bigger profit margins than the official supply channels. A Volkswagen Golf 1.4S 3dr is available – delivered to a UK dealer – at for £8,995. The UK list price is £11,620. Other sample prices include Peugeot 206 XSi at £3,014 below UK list price and a Land Rover Discovery TD5 GS at £8,487 below UK list price.
Mr Empson said there were further discounts on volume purchases. He had originally projected sales of 10,000 units between April and the end of the year, but initial order volumes were so high this had been raised to “nearer 14,000”. More than one quarter of sales are expected to be VW Golfs.
The apparent high level of demand for cars from RHDimports underlines the demand for cheaper cars from franchised dealers.
The latest Alliance & Leicester index shows new car prices fell by 8.7% on average in March though some industry insiders believe there should be further reductions.
“The difference between new and nearly-new is too narrow,” said one. “Manufacturers know they could push prices down further.”
According to Alliance & Leicester, prices of nearly-new cars showed the first increase for two years. Family cars showed the largest new year-on-year decline, falling 16.4%.