Mar. 5 - Greek car sales have slumped by more than 50 percent, as time runs out for the country's private bondholders to accept a crucial swap deal. Andrew Potter reports.
Heavy discounts for used cars in the Greek capital Athens. Austerity measures are biting, and car sales in Greece have slumped. (SOUNDBITE) (Greek) DC CARS DEALERSHIP OWNER, DIMITRIS TOUNTOURIS, SAYING: "Two years ago we would sell around 200 to 300 cars, and now not even 40 the whole year. And those 40 are all small cars. We don't sell larger cars at all anymore because people don't have the money." As Greeks look to make savings, many are selling their cars and not replacing them. The knock on effect is fewer customers for car dealerships. The Greek Association of Motor Vehicle Importers says 600 have shut in the past two years. (SOUNDBITE) (English) GREEK ASSOCIATION OF MOTOR VEHICLE IMPORTERS VICE PRESIDENT, JOHN CONDELLIS, SAYING: "Sales have dropped. They have dropped a lot. And taking as a reference the average annual sales for the decade before the crisis, now 2011 was something like more than 65 percent down. But the past one or two months has been worse, because February 2012, total market was 3800 units - that's 82 percent less than the average." The situation's unlikely to improve soon. Greece faces years of spending and job cuts as the country tries to dig itself out of debt. Yet another crucial deadline is approaching. Greece needs three-quarters of its private creditors to agree to write off half the money they're owed and swap the rest for Greek government bonds. The deal must be completed by Thursday for Greece to get a 130 billion euro bailout package. For Greece's struggling car dealers new customers are arriving. Georgians, Albanians, Romanians and even Germans are travelling to Greece on car shopping holidays, hoping to pick up a bargain. Andrew Potter, Reuters