Sun, Aug 25, 2013 - Page 14 News List

Car market takes a trashing with Greece’s collapse

By Helena Smith  /  The Guardian, ATHENS

“They’ve discovered that they’re just too expensive to run. Not even the banks want to repossess cars because they can no longer afford the space to keep them,” he said.

Patsios vehemently rejects the idea that before the crisis, the Greeks outdid other eurozone nations in their zeal for luxury cars. Instead, he says Greece’s impoverished road network and limited public transport system ensured that Athens and Thessaloniki, its two major cities, suffered from major traffic congestion, which “perhaps” gave the impression there were more luxury cars than there really were.

“Luxury car sales were never at high levels in Greece and always below the European average,” he said.

However, stories of tax-dodging Greeks buying top-of-the-range cars, often with EU subsidies, are also legendary.

Shortly after the debt crisis erupted in Athens in late 2009, policy circles were abuzz with rumors that the town of Larissa (population 250,000) in the agricultural region of Thessaly had more Porsche Cayennes per capita than any city in any other EU country.

Herakles Polemarchakis, a former prime ministerial adviser and economics lecturer at Warwick University, England, went so far as to say there were more German-made Porsche Cayennes in Greece than individuals who declared and paid taxes on an annual income of more than 50,000 euros.

When challenged, the professor watered down the claim, but insisted that the “per capita number of Cayennes in Larissa was twice that of Cayennes in the OECD countries,” referring to the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development.

“It was an open secret that Larissa was the king of Porsche Cayennes,” Savvides said.

Back at the Ferrari dealership, Karitsa refuses to be drawn on who snapped up the 458 Spider.

Speculation, however, is still rife that the buyer was a Briton eager to bypass much longer waiting lists in the UK — Ferrari’s biggest market in Europe.

Karitsa was willing to say only that in Greece customers were usually kept waiting “not more than three months.”

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