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Wednesday, 19 January, 2000, 17:23 GMT
Cruising the net for cut-price cars

corsa Deals on wheels

Car buyers fed up with "Rip-off Britain" are combing the internet for bargains, according to a survey.

More than one in 10 of those questioned have visited the websites of European dealers or import brokers for cut-price cars over the last year.

The BMRB survey of 378 people for The Net magazine also suggests that any car manufacturer without a web presence could miss out on future car sales.

The Great British Rip-off?
Alfa Romeo 145: GB: 11,000 EU (Denmark): 6,607
Audi A3: GB: 10,039 EU (Denmark): 6,784
Vauxhall Corsa: GB: 6,379 EU (Greece): 4,822
Source: Consumers' Association
Thirty-one per cent of respondents said they would use the internet to help them buy their next car. Among women the figure was 22%.

Mark Payton, group editor of The Net magazine said customers were reacting to Consumers' Association figures which show that in the European Union, 62 of the 75 best-selling cars are most expensive in the UK.

He said: "The car market in the UK is on the verge of change.

"At last consumers are not forced to pay high prices for cars in the UK, but instead are using the internet to shop in Europe for bargains.

"Also, for women in particular and as the research seems to indicate, buying a car can be an intimidating process."

However, Peter Rogers, managing director of Volvo dealerships in the South West of England, said the internet would never replace the thrill of going into a car showroom.

audi Audi A3: Cheaper in Denmark
He said: "The net gives us a direct link with our customers 24 hours a day which is great for both parties, but I think in the future it will remain only an information and customer service resource.

"I don't think the internet will ever replace the thrill and experience of seeing or test-driving a vehicle for real."

Next month internet-based car supplier OneSwoop claims it will begin offering cars from Ford, General Motors, Peugeot, Rover and VW/Audi, sourcing cars from dealers in the Netherlands, Spain, Ireland, Denmark or Greece. However, there are no details yet of what sort of savings will be made.

Vauxhall has already begun direct selling to customers via the internet, with savings of up to 1,300 and Ford is expected to follow suit.

Consumers' Association director Sheila McKechnie warns potential car buyers
On Wednesday car dealers dropped a plan to import cheaper cars from Europe to sell to private buyers after fears that it would upset manufacturers and cost the dealers their franchises.

But many buyers are still putting off buying in the hope prices will fall.

  • Earlier this week it was reported that cyber-shopping in the UK is set to boom after a year in which online spending trebled, making Britain now second only to the US for shopping on the net.

    Accountants Ernst & Young said 10% of UK households shopped online in 1999 and British internet spending was set to treble in the next two years.

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    See also:
    20 Dec 99 |  Business
    Cheaper cars on the internet
    29 Oct 99 |  Business Basics
    Motor industry in the UK
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    'Rip-off' car prices falling
    07 Jan 00 |  Business
    Buyers drive down car sales
    02 Dec 99 |  Business
    Car price cuts 'on the way'
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    Cheaper cars on the internet
    20 Dec 99 |  Business
    Peugeot rejects price cuts
    25 Oct 99 |  The Company File
    Consumer watchdog helps car buyers

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