Owning a luxury car, even second hand, is ultimate aim of many ambitious Greeks

After acquiring a big house and a «big» job, a big car is all many Greeks want for an ideal life, say researchers, who often use the word «megalomania» in referring to modern Greek habits, given the size of some of the cars on the roads these days. Most people know someone who drives a luxury car without the income to justify it, and who is able to keep it running only by making sacrifices. Thousands of powerful, luxury cars circulate daily on crowded city streets. In the first four months of this year, 2,719 new BMW cars were sold, along with another 2,854 old models of the same make. Another 3,670 new and 3,296 used Mercedes Benz cars took to the road. Many of these purchases came only after years of strict economizing by their new owners; many other consumers have taken out loan after loan in order to acquire the ultimate status symbol. Not surprisingly, there is a brisk trade in used luxury models. «Obviously, when Moliere created the image of the ‘Bourgeois Gentilhomme’ he was not really familiar with the psychological makeup of today’s Greeks, who left the mountain and the sheepfold for the big city,» said Giorgos Piperopoulos, a psychologist and sociologist at the University of Macedonia. Between January and April 2005, 116,450 circulation permits were issued for new cars, 58,473 of them in Athens, according to the National Statistics Service. During the same period, 12,592 used cars were sold, 5,169 of them in Athens, a 30.3 percent overall increase and a 25.9 percent rise in Attica compared to the same period the previous year. In comparison, during the same period in 2004, 119,951 new cars went on the roads, 60,891 in Athens alone, and in 2003, 98,703 new permits were issued, marking an increase of 21.5 percent from the previous year. Meanwhile, the used-car market grew by 93 percent between 2003 and 2004, and by 106.3 percent in Attica alone. So despite having to tighten their belts and their ongoing complaints about the rising cost of living, Greeks are still finding ways to secure the car of their dreams, even if second hand.