WARSAW, Poland -- Poland's new-car sales plummeted for the third month running in July after Poland's European Union entry led to tax changes, boosted prices and sparked imports of used vehicles, car market research agency Samar said Tuesday.
In July Poles bought only 22,073 new cars -- the weakest monthly sales figure since December 2001 -- down 5 percent from the previous month and 24 percent less than a year ago.
But thanks to strong sales in the first four months, the total sales in the first seven months of the year were up 7.2 percent at 214,836 units.
"The month of August will probably bring no positive changes. For a potential rebound we will probably have to wait longer, until the end of the holiday period, until September or even October," Samar head Wojciech Drzewiecki said.
Before Poland joined the EU on May 1, Poles rushed to take advantage of legal loopholes that allowed them to avoid a 22 percent value-added tax by registering passenger cars as cargo vehicles.
EU-linked tax and customs changes have boosted Polish prices for products ranging from sugar cubes to aluminum slabs. Analysts say it is difficult to distinguish real changes in demand from the effects of consumers stocking up before May 1.
Since early May the market has also been flooded by a wave of used cars, often more than 10 years old, after Poland removed trade barriers with the EU.
Fiat retained its leadership of the Polish market in the first seven months, selling 37,467 units, up 14 percent year-on-year.
It was followed by Volkswagen's Czech unit Skoda, whose sales rose 11 percent to 27,326; and Toyota, with sales up nearly 14 percent at 24,494.