ECONOMY

Heavily battered car sector shows a smile

With the first signs of the car industry warming up after the recent launch the government?s cash for clunker scheme, the sector has become a bit more optimistic.

After initial problems in getting the state program off the ground, which offers car owners tax benefits as an incentive to upgrade their old vehicle with a new one, the flow of vehicles being driven to recycling centres is increasing day by day.

At the same time car industry officials told Kathimerini that new orders have increased 50 percent in comparison to the period before the launch of the state program, while the number of customers visiting dealerships has doubled.

Last week?s government decision to include small sized trucks into the scheme is expected to give the market with a further push.

New car sales figures for the first two weeks of the year will be made public next week, however, the current signs are very encouraging.

According to the president of the Association of Motor Vehicle Importers and Representatives (SEAA), Giorgos Vasilakis, sales in the first half of March will be much higher than the 3,500 units sold in the same period a month earlier.

If there are no unforeseen problems arising, 2011 could end with the annual sales drop being contained to 25 percent, in comparison with pre-crisis levels, as opposed to last year?s 50 percent drop, according to Vasilakis.

?Two factors drove the market lower last year. Firstly, there was the economic crisis and secondly, there was the justified feeling among consumers that there are no opportunities in the car market due to excessive taxation,? said Vasilakis.

?Now consumers feel that the car market has opportunities,? he added.

General manager of Fiat Group Automobiles Hellas, Enriko Atanazio, told Kathimerini, that customer traffic has increased with most new orders relating to small sized vehicles.