corsia logo

European Cars: Born in the West, dying in the East

European Cars: Born in the West, dying in the East

With the advent of e-hailing services and home office, car ownership has fallen down the pecking order for younger generations.

The lack of interest in vehicle ownership has been particularly striking on the Old Continent. But while in Western Europe, automakers are solving the issue through technological innovations and interactive experiences, its Eastern counterpart is following a different path.

Eastern European car market : Production over sales

Eastern Europe is more popular as a production location than the sales market. Ever since the fall of the Berlin Wall, Western European automakers like Daimler and VW have been largely outsourcing their production facilities to the eastern parts of the continent. The region has replaced the inefficiency and low standards of Soviet-era manufacturing with some of the most modern and productive plants in Europe.

Eastern Europe has been the only large region apart from China to increase its market share of car production since the beginning of the millennium. By establishing production facilities in the East, automakers do not only hope to expand their network and improve profitability but also evade taxes and tariffs.

According to Forbes’ findings, “while hourly labor costs in Germany range from €40-€52, the costs decrease to €13 per hour in Hungary, and to below €5 per hour in Romania and Bulgaria.”

The benefits of outsourcing

Audi was one of the car brands to have shifted production to existing lower-cost plants in Eastern Europe. The automotive powerhouse planned to assemble two new models in Volkswagen plants in Slovakia and Hungary. The plan was to begin production of a full-sized Q8 SUV at a factory in Bratislava, Slovakia, in 2018, and the following year, to add the sporty, coupe-style Q4 SUV in Gyor, Hungary.

The prospect of changes certainly brought excitement about the brand in the region. Moreover, the automaker was not only increasing its brand value but also disrupting the manufacturing environment in a positive way.

Thanks to the Gyor production plant, Audi won the title of the “most attractive employer” in Hungary six years in a row. In that sense, the automaker’s presence in the region contributes more to the overall brand image than the monthly balance sheet.

Another man’s treasure: The secondhand car market

The region is famous for importing used cars from the West. The second-hand vehicles get a second chance in the Balkans and the neighboring countries. These markets have a tendency for increasing the average age of passenger vehicle fleets. In Bulgaria, for example, nearly 50% of the cars registered in the country are age 20 or older.

In Eastern Europe, the exchange and sale of the already used vehicle are nothing spectacular. It’s almost like neighbors swapping sugar for eggs at their doorsteps. If you ever lived in the region, you wouldn’t even think about it as a phenomenon. Nobody does, anymore.

Whether it is your neighbor’s old car or an old car from the neighboring country, it doesn’t matter. The point is that the car is cheap and isn’t falling apart (just yet). Who cares that there are a million newer models somewhere out there in the West? As long as it can handle your trip to the beach, you’ll take it.

However, not all cars come from the West. Interestingly, in this pool of automotive relics, you will often find one particular Soviet model. You can delve into its story by reading our post on Lada Zhiguli.

The real division between East and West

Generally, the demand for new cars in Eastern Europe is low. Instead, people rely highly on second-hand vehicles imported mainly from Western countries. But this is predefined by certain economic and social factors in the region. There are some major differences between the wealthy West and the “poor East” that affect people’s buying potential and purchasing habits.

Priorities vs. realities

In Eastern Europe, many people are still getting their hands on a personal vehicle for the first time. In the past, most families used to have only one vehicle. Today, the situation is changing as more people have the desire to get a taste of western freedom.

But the main focus in the region is still on mobility. As more people look for job opportunities outside of their local community, mobility solutions become a necessity. Cheap mobility solutions, to be precise. This alignment of priorities puts factors such as depreciation and CO2 emissions further down the checklist.

While the West has been implementing technological innovations, the common Eastern European mindset is nowhere near that scope. Self-driving vehicles are still a concept associated with the Back to the Future movie.

Electric vehicles are also just a dream for the majority of countries in the post-Soviet bloc. At the same time, however, the West already considers them a common sight in the streets. The consciousness about the environmental impact of cars is much higher among people in Western Europe than in the East. Some even consider the flow of second-hand cars to the Eastern region as an act of exporting pollution.

But it’s not that the people in the East are less educated or poorly informed. It’s just that their priorities are still focused on practicalities rather than self-actualization. This scheme of things largely defines their choice for second-hand vehicles.

Outsourced production vs local market

Some Central and Eastern European (CEE) countries — notably the Czech Republic and Slovakia — are exporting large numbers of vehicles while their domestic markets remain small. These two countries produce more than five times their levels of domestic demand. Therefore, plants in these countries operate almost entirely independently of the local market, relying on high demand in the destination countries in Western Europe.

Apart from the increase in brand equity, automakers do not get much financial profit from the local market. The produced vehicles are shipped back to countries like Germany, France, and the UK. Locals receive only the second-hand models from abroad.

As one might expect, the three big countries Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary are the predominant sales markets, accounting for nearly 80% of all new car registrations in the Eastern region. The others still rely on their cousins who travel West to bring the second-hand option with the best price-quality ratio.

Market potential vs. financial incapability

The living standard in the East remains the biggest obstacle for automakers. Income levels are generally lower, but the negative demographic trends are only making the situation worse. However, automakers expect vehicle sales to grow in the next decade of years.

As economic activity begins to pick up in Eastern Europe, combined with lower vehicle ownership rates, automakers and dealers hope to see an increase in sales. With wages as low as €5, however, this might be hard. People in these countries do not believe in big automotive companies because they seem way out of range.

The brands that will most likely enjoy the increase in buying power in the East are the ones positioned in the middle segment, like VW and Skoda. The “modest ones,” as automakers call them.

In Bulgaria, for instance, VW is the brand that dominates the country’s fleet. In 2016, there were more than 485,000 VW vehicles in the country. For comparison, Audi was enjoying less than a third of this number (a little over 176,000). Reality is nobody would mind driving an Audi. But few can actually afford one. Even if it’s second-hand.

The glorious life of a VW Golf

The Golf was first produced in 1974 and since then has become famous not only in Europe but also in North America and China. And no wonder. Currently, it is manufactured in Germany, Spain, and Slovakia. In 2009, the brand won the title “World Car of the Year”.

The Volkswagen Golf is one of the most popular cars in Eastern Europe. Technically, it is now the most imported model in the region.

Golf is the most wanted graduation gift among teenagers. It’s common in Eastern Europe to receive a car from your parents as soon as you finish school. There’s a high chance it will be your dad’s old Golf, but hey, as long as it runs, you won’t mind. If you are a girl, this would be the last step to independence!

The Volkswagen Golf in Eastern Europe is many youngsters’ first real possession. It is often a family heritage passed down from one generation to another. A toy for the truly handy men, and a symbol of social status for the brave Eastern European women. It is the car everyone goes through.

This is why the Volkswagen Golf has been topping the monthly sales figures in Eastern European countries for all models for a very long time. The Volkswagen Golf VII even became the European car of the year in 2013.

The Indian Summer in the East

In the end, we would like to look at the current scheme of things as a chance for each vehicle to have a happier elderly life. If it weren’t for Eastern markets, old cars would die in a Western metal landfill much sooner, wouldn’t they? Instead, they are carefully tended by entire generations of families. Until they can no longer run.

We can’t keep our eyes closed to the potential safety and environmental threats old vehicles cause, however. There must be active control of the import of second-hand vehicles in the East to ensure quality and reliability. And we hope to see serious regulations passed soon.

While traveling through Europe, we have visited an old junkyard – a real treasure chest of Eastern European automobile history. Don’t forget to check our report from that visit.




Share our experience:
Are you ready to ship a car?
Recent posts

Shipping my car to another state

Vehicle transport is a service that private customers and businesses utilize daily. Whether you are relocating or going for a long vacation, shipping your car

car shipping quote

Truckers Can Fight Sex Trafficking

If You See Something, Say Something! This is the slogan of the nonprofit group Truckers Against Trafficking, the organization’s main goal is to have more

Read more

Corsia Logistics team works hard every day to ensure reliable expedited car shipping service. Our customer reviews prove that.

5-Star Rated Car Shipping Company


they trusted us

and here's what they say

Simon Moore
Great company
Read More
Looking for a logistics company, to ship my car, from California to Illinois,my first search, then Corsia showed up, skeptical. Call and a very friendly secretary: Elena. She guided me through, I scheduled and as she explained, all when smooth as scheduled Very happy I did the right choice. I'll recommend this great Company to anyone that is thinking to relocate a vehicle. Thanks Corsia logistics for your honesty and professionalism!
Elizabeth Woodward
High five's all around!
Read More
Corsia was highly recommended by a friend in the automobile industry. We needed to transport a cargo van from Seattle to Florida. We contacted Corsia who quickly arranged transport within just a few days. Communication was outstanding! Just a few email confirmations and we were all set. Mike was great and arrived right on time and delivered to Florida on schedule. Tip-avoid the hornets nest of auto brokers on line and just contact Corsia for a truly great experience!
Carrol Tiffany
Read More
Corsia has been amazing. Their prices are really competitive but more importantly their customer service has been 5-Star. Elena followed up with me every step of the way, making sure there was no miscommunication between me & the driver. We are using them to ship a 2nd vehicle & would not hesitate to use them again!
Tony Boyd
Definitely recommend
Read More
I have recently used Corsia for long time family car with sentimental value that was moved I have recently used Corsia for shipment of my vehicle from Oregon to Arizona by recommendation from other family member who also used Corsia in the past. I am very pleased on the service and the communication throughout shipment. Ken was my direct contact and kept me informed along the move The car was picked up and delivered as communicated. I did use a enclosed mover and the driver was also clean cut professional and treated car as his own. I would definitely recommend Corsia again with the experience I have had. Thank you. T
Top notch
Read More
Top notch Transport - Porsche 997 Top notch! As easy and efficient as one could possibly imagine. Great customer service.. thank you Luke. Great prices. Check. Timely communications. Check. Clean transport trailer. Check. Supremely careful driver. Check. Timely arrival. Check. Don't mess around elsewhere, just call Corsica and feel confident your transports needs are going to be exceeded. My Porsche 911 rode like a Queen in her enclosed chariot. I've never needed a transport company before, and I surely will use them every time. Do yourself a favor, seriously. Call now.
Geet Mp Haryana
Reliable, efficient
Read More
Corsia rep (Elena) was very proactive. Helped ship a car from CA to GA. She checked in with me via email quote and several phone calls to find me the best possible quote for the fastest available service. After several communications, Corsia was able to schedule a vehicle pickup the next day. The driver communicated well, and the vehicle arrived in final destination faster than we expected in perfect condition. I highly recommend using Corsia's reliable, efficient service.
Cay Liptak
Clean, efficient, wonderful
Read More
Thanks, Corsia! Pickup was so clean, efficient, and wonderful -- my only recommendation is to make sure you schedule it during the day so you can fully review the car in the daylight. Drop off was equally wonderful, and the whole trip went down without a hitch (pun intended!). Seriously, Corsia delivered my Jeep from CT to California with no issues or bumps in the road!
Csaba Kovesdy
Truly positive experience
Read More
Corsia Memphis to LA, mid-size SUV. I looked at 4 different companies amd Corsia was the most responsive of them. While being responsive, they were not unduly aggressive: when I indicated that I need to wait a month before making a decision they stopped contacting me and only came back with a reminder when I really needed it. Once I decided to engage Corsia they found me a transport within two days and the car was delivered (from Memphis to LA) in another two days. I had a truly positive experience.
Kelly Torres
Highly recommend
Read More
Working with Corsia Logistics was a great experience. Working with Corsia Logistics was wonderful. They were able to find a driver right away to transport our car. They were in constant communication as to when the car was getting picked up and dropped off. The driver also communicated with me as to when he would arrive. I would highly recommend Corsia Logistics.
Amy Nelson
Excellent Organization
Read More
Corsia was an excellent company to work with while I transferred my car across the US. A friend of mine suggested I use them as they had been very organized and trustworthy with her own car. I researched a few different place but decided to go with Corsia and I'm so glad I did! Any questions I had throughout the process they answered quickly and clearly. I would definitely use them again in the future and recommend them for others to use.