By Anna Saghabalian
The Armenian customs reported on Monday a 30 percent jump in the number of cars imported to the country during the first nine months of this year, presenting it as another indication of rising living standards.
Armen Avetisian, the chief of the State Customs Committee (SCC), said almost 60 percent of the 17,000 or so imported vehicles were second-hand European cars worth up to $5,000. “Most of the imported cars are inexpensive and intended for the growing middle class,” he said.
The SCC data show that local dealerships and private individuals brought in a total of some 16,500 cars during the whole of last year. The bulk of them were sold in Yerevan where traffic has grown much heaver in recent years and where rush-hour traffic jams are an increasingly serious problem.
The number of cars is continuing to rise despite a further drop in imports of petrol and diesel fuel which the SCC said shrunk by 7,000 metric tons from January through August. Avetisian attributed this to local motorists’ growing reliance on the much cheaper liquefied gas. Retail sales of propane have soared during the period in question, he said.
The customs figures also indicate growing demand in brand new and expensive cars that are imported by Armenian companies usually operating as official distributors of Western and Russian automakers. According to the SCC, those companies imported more than 5,500 such vehicles in 2006. However, the 43 dealerships registered in Armenia claimed to brought in only a total of 552 cars.
The State Commission on Protection of Economic Competition (SCPEC) said last August that it has launched an official inquiry into the huge discrepancy between the reported figures. Its findings have not been made public yet.