The average cost of buying a new car in the UK rose by 0.45% in July compared to June but transaction prices still fell for 396 UK sourced models, according to independent monitor, CarPriceCheck.com.

However, the price falls were restricted to popular volume cars made by Citroen, Fiat, Peugeot, and Ford, with the aggressive pricing introduced by MG Rover, Volvo and Land Rover in June remaining largely in place for July.

The most noticeable transaction price hikes recorded during July were for Mercedes-Benz (up by an average of 1.56% for 126 models across its A-Class, C-Class and E-Class families), Toyota (up by 1.44% across two-thirds of its range), Nissan (Primeras up by 2.5%) and Alfa Romeo (up 1.13% on 146 and 147 models).

Forecourt pricing activity mirrored figures from July 2001 where prices had risen by 0.38% in the month and discounts had also gone up or down for 20% of all vehicles available.

However, analysis shows that a car buyer in July 2002 had an extra 703 cars to choose from compared to 12 months earlier. There are now over 4,500 different models on the UK market.

The 15.5% increase may give car buyers more choice, but it comes against an increasing trend by new-style [parallel] importers, Internet retailers and car supermarkets to reduce the number of models being offered to the public.

“Manufacturers are competing by improving specification, offering a wider selection of trim options and introducing an ever increasing raft of special editions to boost the appeal of their products,” said CarPriceCheck.com chief executive Steve Evans.

“It works for some, but more and more people are buying on price and availability first and last, which is why the likes of car supermarket Trade Sales and importer Virgin Cars are concentrating on the models that can deliver the biggest savings for buyers.”

Evans said that increasing the number of available models and changing the specification “makes it easier for manufacturers to cloud the issue and more difficult for the consumer to really see what's happening on price.”

With the consumer and motor industry still digesting the implications of European Competition Commissioner Mario Monti’s overhaul of the new car market announced earlier in the month, the cost of imports from ‘Euroland’ rose during July by 0.8% as fluctuating exchange rates took a toll.

UK buyers can still expect an average discount of 10.8% on an EU imported model compared to 4.69% from a UK supplier, CarPriceCheck.com said.