Journal Article

The Evolution of Price Dispersion in the European Car Market

Pinelopi Koujianou Goldberg and Frank Verboven

in The Review of Economic Studies

Published on behalf of Review of Economic Studies Ltd

Volume 68, issue 4, pages 811-848
Published in print October 2001 | ISSN: 0034-6527
Published online October 2001 | e-ISSN: 1467-937X | DOI:
The Evolution of Price Dispersion in the European Car Market

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Car prices in Europe are characterized by large and persistent differences across countries. The purpose of this paper is to document and explain this price dispersion. Using a panel data set extending from 1980 to 1993, we first demonstrate two main facts concerning car prices in Europe: (1) The existence of significant differences in quality adjusted prices across countries, with Italy and the U.K. systematically representing the most expensive markets. (2) Substantial year-to-year volatility that is to a large extent accounted for by exchange rate fluctuations and the incomplete response of local currency prices to these fluctuations. These facts are analysed within the framework of a multiproduct oligopoly model with product differentiation. The model identifies three potential sources for the international price differences: price elasticities generating differences in markups, costs, and import quota constraints. Local currency price stability can be attributed either to the presence of a local component in marginal costs, or to markup adjustment that is correlated with exchange rate volatility; the latter requires that the perceived elasticity of demand is increasing in price. We find that the primary reason for the higher prices in Italy is the existence of a strong bias for domestic brancs that generates high markups for the domestic firm (Fiat). In the U.K. higher prices are mainly attributed to better equipped cars and/or differences in the dealer discount practices. The import quota constraints are found to have a significant impact on Japanese car prices in Italy, France and the U.K. With respect to local currency price stability, a large percentage of the documented price inertia can be attributed to local costs, and a smaller fraction to markup adjustment that is indicative of price discrimination. Based on these results we conjecture that the EMU will substantially reduce the year-to-year volatility observed in the car price data, but without further measures to increase European integration, it will not completely eliminate existing cross-country price differences.

Journal Article.  0 words. 

Subjects: Economics

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