Car prices in Germany, Austria and the U.K. are still the highest
Car prices in Germany, Austria and the U.K. are still the highest in the European Union, justifying authorities' efforts to open the region's car market to competition, EU antitrust chief Mario Monti said. "Our monitoring of price differentials confirms there is significant room for improving market conditions in the motor vehicle sector," Monti said in a press release accompanying a European Commission report on car prices in EU countries. The commission said Feb. 5 that it wants to break carmakers' control of dealerships, following other moves to open the vehicle market. The EU fined DaimlerChrysler AG and Volkswagen AG in the past four years for refusing to sell to Germans shopping for cheaper cars abroad. It said today that it's continuing a probe of whether PSA Peugeot Citroen and Renault SA broke free-trade rules. Forty of the 80 best-selling models cost at least 20 percent more in Germany than in one or more other countries, according to the commission's half-yearly report, based on automakers' recommended pretax prices compiled as of Nov. 1. The cheapest cars on average are in Spain, Greece and Finland, it said. Under an exemption to EU free-trade rules, carmakers have more control over who sells new vehicles than other manufacturers are allowed over their retail products. The commission plans to let the exemption expire later this year. Vehicle manufacturers, supported by German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, have said they will seek amendments to the plans. Analysts said prices also vary because consumers in the U.K., Germany and Austria are failing to hold out for the best price, including looking abroad. The commission report said the U.K. is the most expensive country for 52 of the models in the survey.