LONDON - Automakers here have lost a public relations battle over the high prices of vehicles in the UK. That means more trouble as the industry tries to keep its block exemption allowing Europe's automakers to maintain exclusive dealerships.
The manufacturers chose not to attend a 20 July public hearing on car prices held by the UK government's Competition Commission. Their non-appearance dominated headlines the following day. Typical was the Daily Mail newspaper: 'The Great British car price scandal (and the manufacturers who wouldn't come to defend themselves at an official inquiry).' The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), which represents the industry, testified.The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), which represents the industry, testified.
Car dealers and the UK Consumers' Association did attend.
The hearing was part of a nine-month investigation into car prices in the UK. In December, the UK commission will make a recommendation to the government.
Manufacturers said the format of the hearing would have put them at a disadvantage. Testimony was limited to 10 minutes. Ford UK spokesman John Gardner said, 'We have serious concerns about the value of an open hearing in terms of reaching a balanced and impartial conclusion.'
The manufacturers will be able to appear before the commission at upcoming private hearings.