Haymarket buys car title for scrap

In a lesson in how to eradicate the competition, Haymarket has acquired Test Drive magazine from Dennis Publishing and immediately closed it.

Test Drive launched in 2004 as a direct rival to Haymarket's What Car?, backed by a £4.5 million advertising campaign. It initially sold up to 114,000 copies, but its latest ABC figure, for the second half of 2005, was 50,113.

What Car?'s circulation has been in decline since Test Drive launched. Its ABC for the six months to June 2004 was 149,346 — eroded to 122,532 in the six months to December 2005.

Haymarket confirmed that Test Drive was being incorporated into What Car? and that no staff were moved over with the sale.

A spokeswoman for Dennis declined to comment specifically on the fate of Test Drive's nine-strong editorial team, including editor James Mill. She said: "We are hopeful of redeploying a number of the Test Drive editorial team across the Dennis portfolio, but inevitably there will be some redundancies."

Dennis has two other auto titles, Auto Express and Evo, which has increased its frequency to 13 issues a year.

The final issue of Test Drive, dated September, will go on sale this week and its website, testdrivemag.co.uk, will also cease to publish. Haymarket will take on Test Drive's subscriber base.

James Tye, chief executive of Dennis Publishing, said: "The car market remains extremely tough and our decision to sell the magazine is a direct reflection of this.

"The new-look Test Drive, with its fresh editorial direction and new price point, was a superb product in my mind, but it was very hard to see how the magazine could grow in the current advertising and copy sales climate.

"With a heavy heart we decided that the decision to sell was the best one."

The car magazine market is expected to be one of the heaviest hit in the next round of ABCs, due on 17 August. Last week, Emap reshaped Car magazine as a premium brand monthly, shifting 100 page listings and breaking news to its website. It is likely that only the BBC's Top Gear will experience any significant gains.

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