WARSAW - Poland's new passenger car sales returned to strong growth in March as lower interest rates and worries that a weakening zloty might lift prices of foreign manufactured models brought Poles back to showrooms.
Private car market monitoring agency Samar said in a monthly report on Tuesday that Poles had bought 27,919 new cars in March, 16 percent higher than in the same month of 2002.
In the first quarter, new car sales, which have been on the rise since mid-2002 thanks to cheaper credit and government measures to stem imports of second-hand cars from the European Union, rose nearly 12 percent from the same period last year.
"The rise should not be seen as a result of an economic recovery," said Samar. "A large part...is the result of the political situation, reluctance to save and concerns over a further rise in the foreign exchange rate."
The zloty fell by about 5 percent against both the dollar and the euro in March after a cabinet coalition break-up raised worries over political stability at home, while the outbreak of war in Iraq soured investor sentiment towards emerging markets.
A prime gauge of consumer confidence, new car sales have suffered in recent years due to Poland's economic slowdown, high unemployment rate and the high cost of consumer loans.
Fiat, which produces several of its compact models in Poland, remained the market leader with a share of 19 percent, as the troubled carmaker's sales reached 15,333 units in the first quarter, up 9 percent from last year.
Volkswagen's Czech unit Skoda was second with a 12-percent market share, or 9,506 units. VW itself sold 4,135 cars for a 5 percent market share.
The third position belonged to Renault, whose market share neared 11 percent, with 8,743 units sold.