Some excellent deals await the shrewd buyer who won't wait to buy a V.
AFTER A few weeks of V-plate activity, manufacturers are still trying to tempt us into their showrooms. There are lots of deals and, it seems, cars still on offer. Some deals and cars are, however, better than others. But the question remains as to whether buying a V plate now, or waiting a little longer, will be the most financially astute strategy.

Paul Beswick is the hands-on managing director of the GTi Centre in Huddersfield, which underwrites hundreds of used cars each month (agrees to buy part- exchanges).

Mr Beswick says: "The feedback we are getting back from the majority of dealers is that this month has been a bit of a disaster. The number of real sales as opposed to pre-registrations to boost sales figures is well down.

"I think that the media overlook this when they do their V-plate puff pieces concentrating on fleets and big companies swapping lots of vehicles at once. The reality is that there are fewer customers than usual. As a result you might think that used car prices would be firmer, but no, values are dropping fast. There is a lot of uncertainty in the whole new and used car market and it seems that the rumours of manufacturers realigning their prices is at the root of it. That is quite naughty, really, because the manufacturers are holding off price cuts until the V-plate publicity dies down. Everyone is playing a wait-and-see game."

Mr Beswick is right: there are strong rumours that Ford will take the lead by making UK cars the same price as in Europe. Volkswagen is also rumoured to be considering a similar scheme, and even upmarket Saab. So maybe we should take a tip from the professionals and simply wait and see what happens in the autumn and, like we suggested last Saturday, not buy a V until 2000.

If you can't wait, there are still ways of saving money. Mazda's Premacy model has been reduced in price by pounds 300 and that means the entry level 1.8 GXi model is pounds 14,375 on the road. Seat has reduced the price of its Arosa city car: the 1.0S now costs pounds 6995 and is available on 0 per cent, or low-rate finance too.

There are also special part exchange prices from some dealers against the excellent new Toledo family saloon. Hyundai have a choice of low rate finance options, free servicing and free insurance on selected models.

Pop into a Daihatsu showroom and buy a Cuore City car, or mini off-road Terios and get an automatic gearbox free, usually a pounds 300 or pounds 500 option. Its grown-up Fourtrak off-road models have either enhanced specifications, or in the case of the Fieldman a pounds 1,000 cashback, effectively a discount. Rover is making a big deal of its 200 and 400 models by offering one year's free insurance and either two years' free servicing, or warranty - and the option of two years' zero, or low per cent finance. And they have a good reason for the offer: these models are due to be replaced soon. Costing pounds 5,000 less in Europe, the gloves are off if you want one at a big discount.

In fact there are lots models reaching the end of their useful lives at the moment and the shrewd buyer knows which ones they are.

The incredibly successful Fiat Punto is revamped and new models are being discounted for between 25 per cent and 30 per cent. The underrated Seat Ibiza is also madeover and although there are low rate finance deals, expect to negotiate a 20 per cent discount. A new Nissan Primera is just out, but the excellent old model still lingers in car compounds - again, at least 25 per cent is the target discount.

Renault's superb Scenic has been over-supplied in recent months - try to haggle at least 20 per cent. Volvo has also had to realign its prices and, with the 70 range of saloons and estates under particular pressure , Volvo dealers are far more willing to haggle than in the past.

So if you do not mind models which are still very competent, but just past their sell-by date, now isn't a bad time to go shopping for a V plate.

However, if you are prepared to be patient there may well be a massive shake-up of the retail motor industry. The only winners can be new and used-car buyers. Just wait and see.

GTi Centre contact 01484 517070