Sales of SUVs and luxury 4×4 vehicles in Greece have doubled in the last five years, despite soaring petrol prices and a shrinking number of parking spaces in Athens, particularly in the city center, industry sources said yesterday. Data from the Association of Motor Vehicle Importers – Representatives (AMVIR) showed that sales of sport utility vehicles in 2005 hit 9,288 versus 4,010 in 2001. Sales of luxury 4×4 vehicles also showed strong growth, rising to 17,208 in 2005 from 10,292 in 2001. «In the last two years, there has been an unprecedented trend for high-priced cars with large engines,» said Giorgos Efstathiou, head of corporate sales at EKKA cars. One of the most important factors that has been supporting the increase is the availability of financial leasing. Of the 216,963 cars sold in 2006, 54,000 have been bought via leasing. The figure is expected to exceed 70,000 by the end of the year. «The rise in the profitability of large companies and the circulation of tax-free ‘black money’ increase the buying power of certain types of customers and consequently the number of luxury cars, 4×4 vehicles or two-seater roadsters,» added Efstathiou. Sakis Tsioutras, researcher at the Hellenic Institute of Transport, said that trends for larger-sized cars is adding to Athens’s serious pollution problem. «In comparison to a car with a 1.4-liter engine, a luxury jeep consumes up to double the petrol and releases into the atmosphere up to 50 percent more pollution than a regular car,» he said. In the roadster category – sports cars which usually seat just two people – growth rates are just as impressive but on a much smaller scale. In 2003, 71 new Porches hit Greece’s roads while in 2005 the figure shot up to 213. Ferrari lovers also seemed to multiply, as three cars were sold in 2004 in comparison with 17 so far this year.