Blog: Dave LeggettBetter safe than sorry

Dave Leggett | 25 January 2005

I guess you can't blame the SMMT guys for playing on the safe side where competition rules are concerned. You can see how the exchange of market forecasts between vehicle manufacturers might look to officials at the European Commission who are charged with looking after competition rules. Have vehicle manufacturers been colluding to keep prices high in Britain and is this some hard evidence with which to form a case?

Well, if they have, I don't think the SMMT's forum for the exchange of market forecasts is where the investigators need to look. When I worked at SMMT in the dim and increasingly distant past (late 1980s), I was involved as a secretary to these forecast meetings and it seemed innocent enough. You had a bunch of market analysts from the vehicle companies (and back then some component companies too, like GKN, T&N and Lucas) simply discussing how they saw the car and commercial vehicle markets in very general terms.

The discussion surrounded things like economic growth, consumer spending, the housing market, the outlook for interest rates and so on. And people spoke freely without any agendas, offering personal opinions that often strayed from company lines. Eventually, a number was agreed as the 'official' SMMT forecast for the car market and that was that. See you in three months' time. It was more a peer group get together than a meeting of vehicle manufacturers.


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