In the fast lane

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Long gone are the days of the Fiat 126p “Maluch” and its big brother, the 125p. No longer will you see Skoda 120s scuttling down the streets of Warsaw. And if you see a Trabant, it’s usually there as a tourist exhibit of times gone by

by John Beauchamp

With Poles becoming richer, so too have their tastes in automobiles. But what exactly are Poles driving today? According to the latest figures from Samar, an automotive consultancy, January 2014 saw the largest amount of new cars being registered since 2009. Back then, the Skoda Octavia was the best-selling car, followed by the Toyota Auris with Skoda’s smaller Fabia model in the third spot.

going overdriveA month later, in February, the number of new car registrations grew by 34.7 percent year-on-year to land in at 33,324 registrations. The Octavia won hands down over the Ford Focus, but Poles seem to have a thing for their Czech neighbors, as four out of the top ten models sold in February were manufactured by Skoda. Other top models from February sales include Volkswagen’s Passat, as well as the Opel Astra.

Truth be told, the sudden surge was likely caused by the changes in regulations which limited the amount of tax that can be deducted for vans as of April 2014. “Over a quarter of passenger cars registered were equipped with partitions [separating the back seat from the trunk, that allow them to be used for goods transportation] – nearly 28 percent,” the Polish Automotive Industry Association said in a statement.

Mark of luxury
While the Polish automotive market is holding steady despite economic turbulence, the number of luxury cars being sold in Poland is also on the rise. Bentley has been in Poland for six years, while Ferrari and Aston Martin have been here for three. Newcomers to the scene include Rolls-Royce and Maserati, which opened showrooms in Poland in 2013.

According to Samar, the average price of a Ferrari bought in Poland is about PLN 1.28 million, the equivalent of 36 Fiat Pandas.

But what about sales of luxury cars in Poland? The numbers say it all. In 2013, Poles bought 61 new cars from the luxury segment, spending a total of PLN 59.9 million. But when you add this figure to the premium segment, you get a number closer to PLN 4.6 billion, around 20 percent of the entire market.

The top luxury car in Poland in terms of 2013 sales was Maserati, with 17 cars sold, with the close runner-up being Bentley. Considering that manufacturers sold two cars each in Poland in 2012, one could say that sales have gone into overdrive. Ferrari also had a bumper year in 2013, selling 15 cars, up from 11 in 2012.

Aiming high
second-hand carsNevertheless, the market is a tough one, and earlier in March, rumors abound that the Ferrari salon in downtown Warsaw was going to close. Luckily for Ferrari-owner wannabes, the company management stated that they’re merely working on a new sales strategy in Poland.

Automotive giant Sobiesław Zasada opened Poland’s first Ferrari salon with his grandson, Daniel Chwist. In the beginning, they banked on selling up to 15 new cars annually, an optimistic figure. And while they have had to pump their own cash into the enterprise, they are now finally meeting their sales targets – if they are the same as five years ago…

While Lamborghini has only managed to sell one car annually in 2012 and 2013, that too may change, as the Italian manufacturer is to open a salon in Warsaw in April, right next door to the Bentley showroom.
“We have analyzed the Polish market precisely and we are certain that we are opening the salon at the right time,” the owner of Porsche Inter Auto Polska, which includes both the Lamborghini and Bentley showrooms, Piotr Jędrach told Forbes Life recently.

So while the luxury car segment in Poland is certainly on the rise, the only thing that remains to be built are luxury roads.

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