Remember ‘Rip-Off Britain?’ It’s not many years since the tabloids were filled with rabid headlines accusing British retailers – and especially car manufacturers – of profiteering on the back of prices that were substantially higher than elsewhere in Europe. The newspapers even coined a phrase for the way these profit-hungry multinationals saw the UK - ‘Treasure Island.’
In car prices, the differences were big enough to create a substantial market in ‘parallel imports’, right-hand drive cars sourced from abroad and imported for substantial savings. The number of middle-aged Vauxhalls you see wearing Opel badges is testament to how widespread the practice was.But now the pound/euro exchange rate has slid to the other end of the scale, and we’ve suddenly got the cheapest cars in Europe. Last week I blogged about Ford’s imminent price rises and I got contacted by an expat friend who lives in Germany and who – despite the price increase – is now seriously contemplating trying to source a left-hook Focus RS from Blighty.
His logic is simple enough. In Germany the Focus RS costs €33,900. Which, at current exchange rates, is about £31,300. Even after the £750 price increase takes effect today, a UK-sourced RS could be his for just £26,490. Even with the costs of getting it back to Germany and, in the worst case scenario, getting a right-hooker converted to full ‘TUV’ compliance, he’s looking at a four-grand saving.
The obvious point is that British prices are likely to rise further. But in the meantime maybe it’s time for some canny British dealers to cash-in and start ‘parallel importing’ back into the euro zone. It wouldn’t be too hard – send a few staff on language courses, put some adverts in the French, German and Italian press and entice some bargain-seeking continental punters to make the trip over here.