November 2, 2008

Foreign Cars Sales in Romania
Apoldu de Sus, Romania

Stephan's VW

Stephan is driving this sort of off-road looking Volkswagen that he brought down from Austria. I believe it was about to be cut up for parts by his uncle when he decided to buy it off him for his time here in Romania. It's given him nothing but problems, and now sports several internal Dacia parts, like some sort of German/Romanian Frankenstein.

But what's truly an amazing thing to watch is how many unsolicited offers this kid gets for his wheels. It's a part of the culture here in Romania that's a pretty wild thing to witness. He'll get notes with phone numbers on them placed under the wiper blades on his car when he's in the city. He'll get people knocking on the courtyard door who are passing by, wondering if he's selling. Most every male that interacts with him while he's around his vehicle eventually starts up this conversation with him.

Foreign cars are just one of the new crazes in the country, and it's certainly both a buyer's and a seller's market in Romania these days. European Union membership has opened up the market for everyone. Foreign cars driven by foreigners are flooding the roads, and what's undesirable in Austria is anything but in Romania. There's a huge difference between a 25-year-old German vehicle and a 25-year-old Communist-era Dacia.

Stephan tells me the majority of people looking to buy his car are going to take it into the hills and use it for labor transport between the fields, or to assist with field labor itself. These people aren't going to register the car, pay for insurance or tags, or do anything slightly official. And because of the general remoteness and common culture of the behavior, there's little likelihood that police would harass them about such things.

Older, reliable foreign cars are flooding into the country, and Romanians are so adept at tearing engines apart and fixing problems that even problematic vehicles still make for solid purchases. The challenge is finding or attracting the buyer with enough money to make a proper offer for a labor vehicle (as Stephan gets offers, but nearly all have been less than half of the purchase price).

But after a pair of flat tires and what seems to me like a fuel-injection problem, our host has decided that he's going to be leaving Romania without his VW. For the first time he'll put a sign in the window, park it outside the boarding school (in a plaza next to the main highway), and watch the offers roll in. Hopefully one will work out for him.

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