Irish insurer Quinn-direct has begun selling direct motor insurance in England, putting pressure on the market.

The insurer's financial planning director, Shane Morrisson, said that the company was targeting the "value, no-frills" end of the motor market, including young drivers and those with limited driving experience.

It is targeting gross written premiums of at least ¤26m (£18m) within two years.

"Within 12 months we want to be writing half a million euros a week and giving 10,000 quotes a week," said Morrisson.

The move has raised fears of a price war in the already softening UK motor market.

One observer said: "Quinn is very aggressive in Ireland and it will be going head-to-head with Direct Line and the supermarkets. With motor rates already falling in the UK, this will push them down even further."

The product will be sold direct to consumers through the internet and Quinn's call centres in the Republic of Ireland, from where underwriting and claims will also be handled.

Initially, Quinn will focus on motorists in the Greater Manchester area, where it already has a presence through its UK commercial operation. But it expects to expand to the rest of England and Wales by the end of the year, and then to Scotland in 2005.

Morrisson said: "We are the most profitable motor insurer in the Republic of Ireland, but to continue our growth we need to look for alternatives. So we have launched the product in the UK."

"We are confident we will be able to replicate our success."