Car dealerships seek ways to jump-start ailing business

Slashed prices, greater benefits in trade-ins for newer models, six months? free insurance, as well as covering the cost of the annual road tax are but a few of the desperate measures car dealerships are resorting to in order to get the stalled market purring once more.

Coupled with the hike in road taxes, the exponential rise in the price of gas has also led dealerships to launch promotion drives for diesel-powered models, offering significant price discounts, yet even this has failed to pull the market out of its current slump as it waits to see whether a revamp of the creaky Greek tax system will include a reduction in vehicle taxes.

The figures concerning the performance of the market in 2011 are disheartening, especially given the failure of a national scheme to encourage drivers to trade in their vehicles for new, greener models. The worsening state of consumers? finances and fear of new revenue-raising measures being introduced by the government translated in vehicle sales last year dropping below the 100,000 mark.

According to figures published by the Association of Motor Vehicle Importers Representatives (AMVIR), just 97,682 new vehicles were registered in 2011 compared to 141,499 the previous year, or 31 percent less. To put these numbers into the perspective of the crisis, in 2009, 220,548 new vehicles were registered, while in the four-year period of 2004-07, average annual sales stood at 276,746 vehicles.

The effects of the trade-in scheme on new sales were limited, although according to market experts it did help keep the market from total collapse. AMVIR reported that in the February-December 2011 period (the trade-in scheme was launched in February 2011), a total of 82,057 older cars were taken out of circulation, but just 33,931 — less than half — were replaced with new models.

The figures pertaining to the beginning of 2012 are no less disheartening: In January just 8,451 new cars were registered, compared to 9,747 in the same month last year, meaning a drop of 13.3 percent.

The figures for February are even worse as in the first fortnight of the month the slump in sales exceeded 50 percent compared to the same period last year.

The reason why the January drop was not as great as in February this year compared to last is that in January 2011, the car sales market was in state of flux as buyers waited to see what benefits could be gained from the trade-in scheme.

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