NEW CARS SALES GO UP
THREE COMPANIES HAVE SOLD MORE THAN 1,000 CARS EACH SINCE JANUARY 1The Bulgarian market of new cars has grown by some 40% in the first six months of 2004 compared to the same period of 2003. June was reported the month with the highest results due to the 2004 Sofia Auto Saloon. Traditionally, the summer months are weaker, so July and August will hardly repeat the figures reached in May and June. That is why analysts expect car sales to increase in September and October.On top of the importers ranking there are three companies - Sofia France Auto, TM Auto, and Moto Pfohe, each of which sold more than a thousand cars in the first half of the year. 1,567 Peugeots as well as 1,046 Fords and 1,026 Toyotas were sold from January to end-June. The three leaders are followed by Citroen (946 cars sold), Renault (829) and Opel (820). Toyota's third place is not a surprise, considering its success on the world markets and the high quality and endurance of the models sold. Obviously, world trends are starting to influence the modest Bulgarian car market. As to the first position of Peugeot, it was expected, too. Since a few years ago it has been the most frequently sold new car in Bulgaria owing to the good marketing strategy, the favourable lease conditions, and, of course, the good balance between price and quality. The current ranking will most probably remain unchanged in the coming months with just the third place causing dramatic competition - Toyota, Ford, Opel, and Citroen seem to have equalized their force.Most sales registered from January to June were by leasing again, with most of the buyers being legal entities that profit by the chance to get back their value added tax. More than 90% of the automobiles were leased, importers underline. Most customers prefer to pay for the cars while using them in their work instead of paying the whole amount at once, regardless of any discounts. In the meantime, there are still few people who buy cars for their personal use without taking into account the value added tax. In economically developed countries it is individuals that occupy most of the market, while business cars usually account for some 30% of the sales. The fact that in Bulgaria companies buy more than individuals do means that there is something wrong in the tax policy of the government, experts comment. The acquisition of new cars for personal needs has long been encouraged even in countries like Croatia, Macedonia, Slovakia. However, Bulgaria still waits for the problems to be solved by themselves.Forecasts for how the market is going to develop by year-end are optimistic - going beyond the barrier of 20,000 new cars sold seems quite a real achievement now. Of course, it is difficult to predict any concrete figures, but considering the low 2002 and 2003 base the progress may be impressing. The question is - will sales grow up to 50,000-60,000 cars which sounds achievable for a country like Bulgaria, by the time it joins the European Union?