Pressure grows on UK new car prices

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A couple in Devon became the first of dozens of Britons to save thousands of pounds by buying their new cars from the Continent via a website yesterday.

Dr Tony Lewis and his wife Penny, who live in Budleigh Salterton, took delivery at their home of two right-hand drive Ford Focus cars, saving £6,500 on British dealers' prices. They ordered them earlier this year from the Consumers Association website at carbusters.com.

Dr Lewis said: "Ordering online was easy. It took around three minutes from beginning to end. We have had to wait acouple of months to receive the car - but the saving more than makes up for the wait."

The Consumers Association has another 81 cars in the pipeline for delivery over the next few months, all bought from the Continent and matching the UK specification, such as right-hand drive. In total, carbusters.com has an order book worth more than £1.5m - bigger than many full-time car dealers - and claims to have saved buyers a total of about £270,000, an average of £3,200 per car. The most popular cars ordered through carbusters.com were the VW Golf, Ford Focus and VW Passat.

The saving on a VW Golf 1.6 SE 5-door is £2,460 on the UK list price of £15,255. A VW Passat saloon 1.8 20v SE with a list price of £17,540 will sell through carbusters.com at £13,165.93. The Lewis's delivery came as the Government was expected to put pressure on car manufacturers to cut their prices by up to a third, after the Competition Commission determined that private buyers are being ripped off. The director of the Consumers' Association, Sheila McKechnie, welcomed the reports, but said the battle was not over yet, and that the carbusters.com initiative was essential to keep pressure on manufacturers.

"I don't think people should underestimate the arm twisting which is going to go on across Europe," she said. "The manufacturers are going to use every trick in the book to get out of this one." The association is not making a profit from the sales, but does charge a commission of £200 for its members, or £260 for non-members.

However, car dealers insisted that people enjoy the "tactile experience" of viewing and test-driving cars. David Evans, chief executive of the dealers' group, the Retail Motor Industry Federation, said: "Most UK dealers now have websites. And you must remember that dealers can offer financing packages, and that many people trade in their old model when buying a new car. That is not possible with this site."

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