Britain offers best deal on luxury cars

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The Independent Online
Luxury cars are now cheaper in Britain than anywhere else in the European Union, according to a new survey published by the European Commission.

The figures also show that the gap between prices for the same models in different member states is smaller than ever - but still way above the 12 per cent differential the Commission has tried and failed to enforce for years.

The latest six-month survey of car prices shows that the share of models with price differences of more than 20 per cent has dropped from more than 50 per cent of all models examined at the start of last year to only 27 per cent by last November.

And, after years of high prices in Britain, models like the seven series BMW, the Mercedes 320 and Volvo 960 are now cheaper in the UK than anywhere else.

Luxury cars are on average 25 per cent more expensive in France, which has become one of the most expensive EU countries in which to buy cars.

But the news for British motorists buying medium-sized and smaller cars is not so good. A Volkswagen Polo is still 22 per cent dearer in Britain than in Portugal, and an Opel Corsa is 24.4 per cent more expensive compared with the same car in Portugal.

The highest-priced cars are in Austria, Germany and France, and the Commission said today that while some manufacturers have made genuine efforts to cut price differentials others have maintained high price differences, depending on what national markets will stand.

A Commission official confirmed yesterday that the narrowing gap in prices for the same model in different EU markets had more to do with exchange rate changes than with the success of the Commission's efforts to create a single market in cars.

The survey showed that by last November the most popular models of cars in the EU showed significant reductions in the price gap in different markets.

For the BMW 316 there was a 16.1 per cent difference between the cheapest and the most expensive countries in the EU compared with 22.6 per cent six months earlier in May. Respective figures for other models were: Audi A4 17.4 per cent (25.2 per cent); Renault Laguna 22.3 per cent (19.4 per cent), VW Golf 17.15 per cent (23.4 per cent); Opel Astra 15.2 per cent (23.9 per cent); Ford Escort 19.6 per cent (27 per cent); Fiat Punto 23.5 per cent (25.6 per cent); Ford Fiesta 20.1 per cent (32.4 per cent); Renault Clio 21.5 per cent (24.8 per cent).

The cheapest cars to buy in Britain include BMW 730, Mercedes 320S Volva 960, Volvo 850, Mercedes 200E, BMW 520, Toyota Corolla and the Volvo 440.

The report coincides with the annual survey by Monk's Partnership showing that 40 per cent of the typical company car fleet in the UK will be 'perk' cars. This is despite changes to company car taxation in April 1994 and the increase in the number of companies offering a cash allowance in place of a car.