BRUSSELS -- New car pre-tax prices are converging across the 25 European Union member states but there are still significant differences for some models, the European Commission said on Tuesday.
The cheapest pre-tax prices are in Finland and the most expensive are in Germany and Austria, but overall the average standard deviation in price across the EU fell from 6.9 percent to 6.4 percent in the six months to Nov. 1 last, the EU executive said.
Car prices increased far more slowly than inflation, growing 0.5 percent across the EU, and 0.9 percent in the 12-nation euro zone, while a broad measure of consumer prices increased 2.4 percent, the Commission said in its regular semi-annual report.
New EU member states accounted for two-thirds of the convergence, but overall prices were relatively stable, the report said.
A Commission official attributed the convergence to changes in EU rules for selling automobiles.
Starting in October, auto dealers will be free to open branch showrooms throughout the EU, ending the so-called "location clause" permitting car makers to limit dealer territory.
"Manufacturers have anticipated the end of the location clause and that is why prices they give dealers are coming closer together in the member states," a Commission official said at a news conference. He asked not to be identified by name.
But there are still substantial price differences for particular models.
For example, General Motors' Opel Astra's pre-tax price is listed at 10,392 euros ($13,770) in Denmark but is nearly half as expensive again at 15,290 euros in Slovakia.
The new freedom for car dealers is the last of the rules to take effect. Some auto companies are under investigation for failing to carry out the new rules.
The Commission is investigating Toyota, Fiat, GM and DaimlerChrysler for making it difficult or expensive for repairers, or manufacturers of repair equipment, to get information they need.
The rules provide that carmakers must make information available on reasonable terms to independent repairers.
The Commission is also investigating VW unit Audi and BMW for making it difficult for their dealers to open multi-brand showrooms.
A Commission spokesman said those cases could be resolved by the summer.
The Commission has also been looking into attempts by Peugeot to discourage French consumers from purchasing its cars in Germany and the Netherlands, where dealers were giving discounts. That case, too, may be resolved by summer, a Commission spokesman said.
The average pre-tax price difference between the most expensive country and the least expensive country in the euro zone for the Renault Clio dropped from 27 percent to 22.7 percent in the same period.
The range in the price difference for the Ford Focus increased from 20.0 percent to 20.8 percent.
The price differences for the Peugeot 307 dropped from 17.5 percent to 17.1 percent while the BMW 318i prices differences remained stable at 12.5 percent.
Price differences were smallest for the Mercedes C180, which was 3.7 percent for both periods.