The number of vehicles registered in Yerevan
in three-fourths of this year shows a dramatic
increase over the number registered in an entire
year only five years ago.
According to Yerevan traffic police, during the
first eight months of 2003 more than 21,000 cars
were registered - 18,000 privately, and the rest
for state use. As recently as 1998, less than
1,000 were registered in a year's time.
Recognizing the recent increase in vehicle traffic
in Yerevan is as simple as standing on a street
corner or, more immediately, trying to cross a
As local attention and concern has focused over
last week's minibus accident that killed six and
injured 12, so is there an awareness that the
capital streets are simply more crowded. Crowded,
too, with private cars of a sort that might have
been unthinkable just a few years ago.
Not so long ago, the Russian Volga was a vehicle
Today, however, the city is a car-aficionado's
catalogue of makes and models of exotic and expensive
vintage that hardly indicate an economy in distress.
Beginning in 1999 Intermotor Armenia JV CJSC,
general distributor for Daimler Chrysler in Armenia
has been offering customers any model of Mercedes-Benz
with two-year warranties.
According to the executive director of the company
Levon Arevshatyan they sell several dozen new
and used cars in a year, with new-car prices varying
from $70,000 to $110,000 for an S-class Mercedes.
are still the "people's car",
but times are changing.
Next month a first exclusive model of Mercedes,
Maybach, will be brought to Armenia. The estimated
cost of the new model in Germany, is $350,000-400,000.
Adding Armenia's 32 percent custom tax and transport
costs, will make the final sticker price more
than half a million dollars.
Arevshatyan says one Maybach is on its way to
Armenia and others have been ordered.
"I welcome the fact that there's a demand
for such a car in Armenia," says Arevshatyan.
"For instance there are two cars like that
in neighboring Georgia, and they belong to the
relatives of their president. Our customer is
not the resident's relative and it means that
businessmen in Armenia can obtain such cars."
Arevshatyan's dealership has serviced about 7,000
Mercedes since starting in 2000. The director
of the company says that most of the cars have
been imported by individual sellers and were brought
"During the past years the private car market
is developing rapidly in Armenia, and it has both
positive and negative sides," says Arevshatyan.
"The imported cars have already been used
from five to seven years, but still they replace
even older models in the republic."
The natural reaction is that the increase in
vehicles could lead to an increase in accidents.
However, specialists in transportation assure
that the streets are no more dangerous than before.
you like to try to cross this intersection?
"From the viewpoint of organizing traffic,
naturally there are difficulties, but I don't
think they've reached the stage of being uncontrollable,"
says Areg Barseghyan, the head of Yerevan's Transportation
According to him traffic intensification hasn't
yet reached the troubling point, which occurs
in bigger cities of other countries.
The president of Armenian Automobile Federation
Mkrtich Piltoyan is of the same opinion. He says
that Yerevan's current increase in traffic simply
brings it back to what it was like during Soviet
"It's simply because Yerevan has become
a city-state and one third of the population is
concentrated here," says Piltoyan.
The big difference, post-independence, is that
models previously unavailable to Soviet consumers
are now replacing those from the Soviet era.
next month at least one Armenian will be
enjoying the luxuries of Mercedes' new Maybach.
Armenia is taking the first steps in formation
of a car market conditioned by customer demands.
Imports are brought in both by individuals and
Mercedes, BMW, Skoda and Peugeot as well as several
Russian models are officially presented in Armenia.
Soon Audi and Volkswagen will join that list.
According to an employee at Armenia-Lada LLC
car importing company Shahen Hovhannisyan, private
importers have become serious competitors for
"It's true that individuals don't import
cars in lots, but the number of importers is extremely
large," says Hovhannisyan. "It seems
like a new tradition has formed. Everyone going
abroad considers it a duty to come back with a
car. Almost in every yard there is a car with
a 'For sale' sign."
Armenia-Lada offers its customers the cheapest
cars, about eight models of Russian car companies.
Their prices vary from $4,300 to $9,100. The company
is also the official representative of Peugeot
and the importer of Nissan and the Indian-made
The only way cars are brought into Armenia is
through Georgia. However both the companies and
private importers are very disappointed with the
hospitality of the neighbor. According to car
importers driving through Georgia, Armenian drivers
get totally robbed. Customs fees, police and dealer
fees for "protection against racketeering"
increase the price of a car significantly.