But its claims fly in the face of detailed research by industry specialists Glass’s and CAP. Glass’s suggests the magazine’s price change monitoring, widely reported without challenge in the consumer press, is flawed in that it appears to be based on selected transaction price reports rather than list price.
Glass’s June New Car Market Trends, for instance, shows that list prices rose by 1.7% year-on-year to the end of May and that over the last five years the market average has gone up by 2.7%. Similarly, CAP’s New Car Price Index, complied using a basket of 78 vehicles taken from all sectors, shows an increase of 2.4% in the average price new between May 2000 and May 2005.
Nonetheless, What Car? insists that since the launch of its Price Index in June 1998, prior to the start of the Rip-off Britain campaign against European pricing disparity, every sector except compact executive and luxury has cut prices.
City cars, it says, are now 19% cheaper, supermini prices have been slashed by 8% and off- roaders are down 13%.
Group editor Steve Fowler says: “Low prices on the forecourt today were sparked by a combination of the Competition Commission’s 2001 ruling that UK prices were too high, and a weak market for small cars and superminis: the two largest categories. Dealers are having to cut prices to prop up sales. If UK buyers shop around, do their homework and haggle they can get a seriously good deal.”
He adds that, in the same seven-year period, average prices of one-year-old cars have fallen by 29%.
A spokesman for Glass’s says: “We wonder whether the What Car? material is based partly on their ‘best price’ discount data in the back of the mag.”