Macedonia imports fewer cars with each coming year.
The Customs Administration shows that 2,615 fewer cars were registered last year than in 2016, and a drastic 31,033 fewer than in 2010 when the preferential import of used cars was allowed.
Used cars still make for the largest number of cars imported, but their number has been decreasing significantly year by year. When comparing 2017 and 2016, there were 2,925 fewer used cars imported last year and 419 more new cars.
The downward trend is a result of both diminished interest and the low living standard.
Used car importers say that people are buying fewer cars, and the cars that are most sought after are those with prices below EUR 3,000.
"In uncertain times, people don't want to spend much," used car dealers say.
Opel Corsa and Volkswagen Polo cars are sold the most. The price for a Volkswagen Golf 5ranges from EUR 4,200 to 4,500 depending on the year of manufacture. A 2007 Opel Corsa goes for around EUR 3,100, and a Volkswagen Passat or an Opel Meriva can be bought for EUR 3,300.
"Car prices are dropping because it is hard to make a sale. Some dealerships are operating at a loss," used car importers say.
According to importers of new cars, there was no difference between 2017 and 2016 in terms of interest in new cars.
In 2010, the government adopted an act allowing the preferential import of used cars from Europe, which enabled citizens to replace vehicles such as Zastava Yugo and Fikjo, Lada, and Wartburg. This period saw a dramatic rise in the import of used cars, but detractors point out that the used cars were manufactured to comply with older, less stringent emission standards, further contributing to air pollution.
Importers of new vehicles also warned that the old cars were not even compliant with those standards any longer.
"You should bear in mind," one importer said, "that a Euro-4-compliant car does not, in fact, comply with the Euro 4 standard 7-8 years after it was purchased. It was Euro-4-compliant when it left the manufacturing plant, but not when it has put 300-400,000 km on its odometer."
To reduce pollution, importers say that the criteria should be stricter, and the lowest permissible emission standard should be Euro-5, considering that Euro-6 is currently in force throughout Europe.
An influx of diesel cars from Europe is expected in the near future, according to reports that Germany has allowed the mayors of German cities to prohibit diesel cars from entering their city centers, and Rome has announced that no diesel cars would be allowed in its central area by 2023.
"All of them will try to get rid of their diesel cars, and where better than to Macedonia, Turkey, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, or other countries with weak emission standards. We should expect to be flooded with diesel cars sold at ridiculously low prices in the next year or so," importers say, adding that the state should raise the standards so that the 2010 situation does not happen again.
Experts agree that diesel vehicles pollute the air much more. The preferential import turned Macedonia into a diesel haven, they say, as most of the imported cars run on diesel fuel.
According to Dr. Dame Dimitrovski from the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering, the ratio of diesel to gasoline cars in Macedonia is now 1 to 1, whereas before the preferential import act cars running on gasoline outnumbered those running on diesel 3 to 1.