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Name recognition is essential for luxury sales

For the average Slovak who earns 3,225 Sk per month, spending 3,500,000 for a new Porsche 911 Carrera is inconceivable. It's no surprise, then, that only one Porsche was sold in 1995 by Porsche Inter Auto Bratislava. Sales of other luxury cars in Slovakia, however, are robust. Mercedes, BMW, and Audi are the most popular luxury cars in Slovakia. Mercedes sold 102 cars in 1995. Porsche Inter Auto sold 336 Audis, with 246 sold already this year. The Audi A6, selling for 1,270,000 Sk, is the company's best selling model. Bavaria Auto, a BMW dealer in Bratislava, sold 35 cars in 1995 and plans to sell 150 units this year. Model prices range from 800,000 Sk to 5 million Sk. "We are expecting the sales rate to go up," said Martin Laholík of Bavaria.

For the average Slovak who earns 3,225 Sk per month, spending 3,500,000 for a new Porsche 911 Carrera is inconceivable. It's no surprise, then, that only one Porsche was sold in 1995 by Porsche Inter Auto Bratislava. Sales of other luxury cars in Slovakia, however, are robust. Mercedes, BMW, and Audi are the most popular luxury cars in Slovakia. Mercedes sold 102 cars in 1995. Porsche Inter Auto sold 336 Audis, with 246 sold already this year. The Audi A6, selling for 1,270,000 Sk, is the company's best selling model.

Bavaria Auto, a BMW dealer in Bratislava, sold 35 cars in 1995 and plans to sell 150 units this year. Model prices range from 800,000 Sk to 5 million Sk. "We are expecting the sales rate to go up," said Martin Laholík of Bavaria.

Toyota plans to enter the Slovak luxury market in October with new Camry models priced from 1,095,000 Sk to 1,442,000 Sk. Toyota Tsusho Slovakia, the dealer in Bratislava, is waiting to see what kind of interest Slovaks have in the new Camrys before an exact price is determined and after the sales promotion campaign. The company will start sales of the premium Lexus model next year.

Name recognition is vital in Slovakia's competitive luxury car market. Sellers of the more obscure premium cars have to battle against the well established reputations of a few car makers. "When a man decides to buy a [luxury] car, he usually buys a BMW or Mercedes because of the name," said Peter Trgina of Toyota. "And usually they always go back to the same name that they've tried before."

Ľubomír Turcer of Jaguar Slovakia agrees. "Top managers of companies, government, or ministries usually buy Mercedes, Audis, or BMWs because they know these better," he said. Only one Jaguar was sold in Slovakia this year, to chocolate-maker Figaro. The cheapest Jaguar model sells for 2,368,000 Sk.

Cash seems to be the most common form of payment for luxury cars. Two-thirds of the BMWs bought through Bavaria Auto are purchased in cash, and the rest are leased. "Our customers pay in cash," said Turcer of Jaguar. Once a buyer decides on which luxury car to purchase, he must then wait. If he's lucky, delivery may only take one week. "If we have the [BMW] here in storage, the customer can have it in 1 week," said Laholík.

Whether sales of luxury cars in Slovakia increase "depends on the economic situation," said Martin Laholík of Bavaria Auto. Laholík noted that their sales should be helped by a lower import surcharge and an expected drop in the EU customs rate from 11.4 percent to 7.8 percent next year.


Jeffrey A. Jones is Editor-in-Chief of the Central Europe Automotive Report

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