Annual car sale figures pretend business boom

Car dealers in Austria seem to look back on their best business year in history – but record figures presented today (Tues) are deceiving, experts have warned.Statistik Austria announced that, with 328,563, more cars than ever were registered in 2010. The state agency said this figure meant a 2.9 per cent year on year increase and even beats the year 1992 when more cars than ever before were registered in Austria.The Austrian Economy Chamber (WKO) however assumes that up to a third of last year’s newly registered cars were exported within three months.Burkhard Ernst, head of the Federal Car Salesman Association, vowed to fight the development. “Such practices devalue the cars,” Ernst said, while WKO official Josef Schirak said he expects more car dealers to give up.Commentators said many car dealers were trying to fulfil sales figures given by business partners and superiors by focusing on short-term registrations.Trade representatives nevertheless stressed today that the branch did better than many analysts had expected it to one year ago. They also stressed that, in contrast to developments in Austria, the number of car registrations plunged by 28 per cent year on year in neighbouring Germany in 2010. The country – the strongest economy in Europe – left the economic crisis behind quicker than initially feared by think tanks.Now Austrian businessmen said they planned to suggest a reintroduction of the so-called car scrappage bonus. The Austrian government – formed by the Social Democrats (SPÖ) and the People’s Party (ÖVP) – decided to set up the business model in 2009 to support the country’s economy.Motorists received 1,500 Euros for buying a new eco-friendly car if they handed in their old one, which had to be registered before 1996, at the same time.Ernst claimed the programme was a success for the SPÖ-ÖVP coalition since it helped it to extra earnings of over 100 million Euros while investments ranged around just 22.5 million Euros.The car scrappage programme was introduced in April 2009 when the credit crunch peaked. It caused a strong increase in car sale figures – and ended in July of the same year after 30,000 people applied for the 1,500-Euro subsidy.Several other European countries implemented similar models back then as well to stabilise the fragile federal economies. Sales records of Austrian car dealers showed most people opting for the programme acquired small and compact cars.