More than half the UK new car buyers surveyed see little difference between purchasing from an import, internet or traditional dealer as long as they get the best price, according to the latest bi-annual car buying habits survey by new car transaction price monitor, Car Price Check.

The data shows that price continues to be more important than origin for the consumer but 54% of buyers now say that they have no preference between an import and a UK supplier.

This compares with 11% of the sample who said that they specifically wanted to buy from an import source and 35% who said that they wanted to be supplied from a UK source.

The findings are based on an analysis of the buying habits of 16,000 consumers during July. The first survey took place last January.

At the turn of the year, 61% of consumers initially intended to buy from a local source. However, during the ensuing six months, there was a gradual move away from the traditional supply channels, with just 35% of people now stipulating an initial desire to buy from a UK 'bricks and mortar' retailer in the first instance.

Car Price Check CEO Steve Evans believes the industry has been "a bit too internally focused" on analysing and commenting upon the competitive pressures and virtues within the different trade channels (which now involve such major brand names as Jam Jar, Virgin, tins, Carbusters and One Swoop) and has ignored the fact that the consumer is delivering a slightly different message.

"Although many cars are not available as a 'build to order' choice from an import source, suppliers in this [sector] are using the internet as a low cost route to market for a varied proposition which embraces both import and UK vehicles, some of which are supplied through arrangements with UK dealer groups or even direct [from] manufacturers," Evans said.

Closer analysis shows the consumer as being less bothered about the source of supply as a reason not to buy, and, in increasing numbers, is prepared to decide for him or herself whether there is really that great a difference between an imported and a UK-supplied car.

"The average buyer is becoming increasingly more at ease in considering and buying from reputable household and major online brand leaders as they integrate UK supplied vehicles with import supplied vehicles at increasingly better value and build local after-sales support capabilities, often using existing dealer outlets to do so," Evans said.

To view related research reports, please follow the links below:-

Automotive retailing in the new millennium

Automotive regional report: Western Europe