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The Warsaw Voice » Business » June 3, 2009
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Car Makers Hit Bumpy Terrain
June 3, 2009 By A.R.    
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As the global economic crisis continues, Poland's automotive industry seems to have been hit harder than other sectors of the economy.

Poland's car factories manufactured 78,129 passenger cars and delivery vans in April, 8.1 percent less than in March and 22.1 percent less than in April last year. A total of 288,228 vehicles were produced in Poland in the first four months of this year; 97.4 percent of the passenger cars produced in this country were exported.

A total of 116,702 new passenger cars were sold on the Polish market in the first four months of this year, up by 1.5 percent compared with the same period last year, according to automotive market research company Samar.

In April, Polish dealerships sold 28,736 new passenger cars, 7.6 percent less than in March, but 2.4 percent more than in April 2008, Samar said. The company's CEO Wojciech Drzewiecki says the slight increase in sales compared with last year is largely attributable to German and Slovak customers buying cars on the Polish market. Despite recent hikes, car prices on the Polish market are still attractive to Germans and Slovaks because the zloty is weak. "At a time of crisis, demand for new cars slumps, hitting car makers," said Krystian Poloczek, vice-president of the Confederation of Polish Employers business organization. "The automotive sector needs measures to stimulate demand for new cars."

According to the Confederation of Polish Employers, excise tax on cars should be replaced with an environmental tax. The new system would take into account environmental factors instead of charging passenger car owners according to engine capacity, the organization says.

Meanwhile, the economy ministry is thinking of introducing special bonuses, worth several thousand zlotys, for car owners scrapping their old cars and buying new ones. The experience of other European countries shows that scrappage bonus systems will stimulate demand for new cars, the ministry says.

Another problem facing the Polish automotive industry is that global car makers who have their factories in Poland are in trouble. Until recently, one in six Opel cars made in Europe was manufactured by a General Motors plant in Gliwice, southern Poland. General Motors also owns two large diesel engine factories in Poland and holds a 60-percent stake in a joint-venture engine plant with Isuzu in the southern city of Tychy and a 50-percent stake in a joint-venture plant with Fiat in Bielsko-Biała, Silesia province. According to the German media, if Fiat takes over General Motors plants in Europe, the Tychy engine factory may be closed down. Although Fiat has not confirmed these reports, the future of General Motors factories in Europe is uncertain. Additionally, Fiat and a consortium of Russian investors and global car part producer Magna International are interested in taking over the Opel brand.
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