Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Want a Cheap Ferrari?

On the outskirts of Athens there is a company that trades in the unhappiness of others.

A dusty Ferrari sits abandoned in a garage, while the forecourt of Auto-Credit is packed with other luxury cars incompatible with this age of austerity.
This is where the wealthy come to pawn their supercars in order to ride out the recession.
Ten owners a day hand over their keys for a three-month contract and a handful of euros.
Increasingly, many of those struggling in the crisis can't afford to get their cars back, so the business has expanded into neighbouring lots.
There's even a secret location where company founder Christos Ioannou is now storing luxury yachts, which owners can no longer afford to run.
"Of course, they are emotional when they come here," he told Sky News.
"It's their car, or their boat and a means of transport and they are only here because of their difficult financial state."
There's an ironic twist to this story, too: the number of buyers is also drying up, so he's planning on reselling the cars in the country where many of them were assembled.
The Auto-Credit pawn shop outside Athens
The Auto-Credit business has expanded into neighbouring lots
"Some owners cannot pay for cars which are left behind and can't retrieve them. These are usually big 4x4s," Mr Ioannou said.
"There is no demand for them in Greece right now so we have set up a company in Germany to export them there for resale."
It's not the only pawn shop doing a brisk trade in Greece. If you walk down Ermou Street, the equivalent of Oxford Street in London, there are flashing neon signs everywhere, offering cash for valuables.
Jack Moore, from Newcastle, was one of the first on the block, after assessing how much gold was being hoarded by people in other European countries.
"When I first came here I was one of the first. You would be lucky if you could see two shops. Now there might be 400 or 500 shops within such a short space of time," he told me.
"They've come from nowhere."
He said business has been steady throughout the crisis, but more unscrupulous black market traders have been springing up.
It's a sign of the desperation here, where incomes of civil servants have dropped by 40%, taxes have soared, pensions shrunk and job prospects all but disappeared.
The threat of even greater economic deprivation now hangs on talks to try to keep Greece solvent with another 130 billion euro bailout.
If it defaults, Greece could soon find drachmas back in their pockets.

Thanks to Sky News for this report.

I don't think I shall be rushing out to buy a second hand Ferrari, or much else come to think of it. I'm already running my own soup kitchen for our family of 6 (Me, David, Zouki, Maisie, Phoebie, and Percy). Tomorrow it is leek and potato. Roll on the salad days of summer!
Jane x

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