New-car sales in two key central European markets are expected to be lower this year than in 2004, says Polk Automotive Intelligence.
Sales in Poland, central Europe's largest market, will drop 69,279 units due to a flood of used car imports since the country joined the EU in May 2004. In Hungary 20,073 fewer new cars will be sold, says Polk.
Sales in Slovenia will drop by 3,586 units. However, sales in the Czech Republic are expected to be flat, while sales in Slovakia and the Baltic states are expected to rise.
Before the countries joined the EU, automakers believed that new car registrations would increase dramatically in the new countries, said Ulrich Winzen, chief analyst at Polk in Essen, Germany.
Instead, many buyers opted to import used cars from western Europe, mainly Germany. They could do so because the new EU countries were required to scrap trade barriers.
Polk says used-car imports into Poland will rise to 840,000 units this year, compared with 818,000 in 2004 and 33,000 in 2003.