JOSEF SCHMID is managing director of Mazda Austria with responsibility for eight other central and eastern European markets. He discussed Mazda's prospects with Automotive News Europe's Georg Auer.
What are the differences between Hungary, Croatia, Slo-venia, Yugoslavia, Macedonia, Romania, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Bulgaria?
Each has its own laws on sales tax, duty and customs. They are always changing. [The Hungarian] market flourished from 1993 until the forint was devalued in 1995. Now it's coming back and it will become a very good market. One of these days Croatia must go through this too, because only a financially sound country can have a stable and well-developed market. Elsewhere, I expect quite a lot of growth very soon from Yugoslavia because of its large population.
People earn low wages in these countries. How can they afford to buy a new car?
Slovenia is nearly on western European standards. The same goes for Hungary, at least its western part. In Croatia you already have a middle and upper strata of people who can afford a car, especially in the tourist regions. Until last year, war veterans got cars without taxes. In the other countries there are lots of firms that buy cars. In Hungary, commercial vans were duty free so they were bought for personal and business use.
If Mazda sales decline across the region this year, when will they increase again?
That depends not only on Mazda but also on politics. We think that in three years we will sell 10,000 new cars in the region.