From Trabants to Lamborghinis: city releases new figures on registered cars

18-08-2006

The city of Prague has released new data on the number and types of cars registered by Prague residents - and for the most part the results are what you'd expect. For obvious historic but also economic reasons, Skoda automobiles remain at the top of the list, although a good number of foreign makes are also registered. What is strange is the number of ancient vehicles one would be hard-pressed to see on Czech roads anymore: the Aero - built in the 1930s (!) of which there are supposedly several hundred - as well as later Communist-era models like the Wartburg or the Trabant. Sure, you may seem some of them on Prague roads but more often than not, their drivers will be on their way to a special social event.

Yes, it's still possible to see old Trabants or even the famous three-wheel Velorex cruising corners in Prague but in most cases their proud owners are simply on their way to popular Trabbie or Velorex events - celebrating their vehicles' fine appearance and handling. Anything else would be surprising - especially considering the number of older and rarer models registered among the total of 570,000 vehicles. While someone out there might still be driving an ancient Aero to work everyday, the National Technical Museum's Petr Kozisek believes at least some of numbers are misleading.

"For whatever reason there are a great number of cars still on the registry that probably shouldn't be there. 200 Aeros? We're talking about a car made in the '30s. There's no way these vehicles are in use. The same goes for many models from the 1950s or 60s. You won't see them on Czech roads, and you won't even see them parked. In truth, most of those vehicles were probably scrapped years ago and the owners have died. The cars were simply never taken off the list."

By contrast, one is more likely to spot luxury cars: a Ferrari or a Corvette in the Czech capital. Among the very rarest there are reportedly six Dodge Vipers, five Lamborghinis, and even one DeLorean from "Back to the Future" fame. Even then, how often do you see one? And, while it's true that here - like elsewhere - sleek, high-performance cars continue to carry a special allure, the National Technical Museum's Petr Kozisek thinks that the attitudes of at least some of those drivers have changed:

"A lot of people were able to realise their life-long dream of owning luxury cars like a Ferrari or Lamborghini, but often those cars, although registered never make it onto the road. They're simply not all that practical. And now, with new road traffic and safety legislation in effect since July it's gotten even more difficult, so we don't see models like that often. Many of the roads themselves are not the best quality, and for low-lying sports cars are not ideal. "

In Prague, as in the rest of the Czech Republic, Skoda automobiles remain by far the most popular car - with both older models that have survived from the 80s but are surely on their last wheels, to the flood of newer models like the Felicia, and currently produced Fabia and Octavia. Though countless foreign makes are fully competitive, Skoda continues to have an edge for both historic as well as often personal reasons: many Czechs continue to say they like or have stuck by the make simply because they've driven Skodas their whole life.

18-08-2006