Russia is trying to rid its streets of old cars as it launches its own “Cash-for-Clunkers” program, but many are not ready to trade in their prized possessions because of the memories connected to them.
Boris Lakhmetkin is a proud owner of 34 vintage cars, ranging from those made in the Soviet-era to rare Volvos from the nineties. He says it is the old Volvos which have the most reliable engines.
“Every one of my cars has something special about it and they are very dear to me. I especially treasure those that used to belong to important people in the past. For example, I have a Volvo that used to belong to Boris Berezovsky. I really couldn't part with any of them,” Lakhmetkin explained.
As Russia plans to launch its Cash-for-Clunkers program on March 8, each one of his cars could get him a 50,000 rouble voucher – approximately $1700 – if he traded it in for a new one.
The initiative sponsored by the government is supposed to help the struggling domestic auto industry, because people will only be able to buy cars made or assembled in Russia.
“We want to solve three problems at once: we want to stimulate the auto market; we want to give people a chance to get rid of their old car and buy a new one; and we want to set up a basic system to dispose of waste such as cars. It is an experimental system,” Aleksey Rakhmanov from the Ministry of Industry said.
Critics in Russia say the plan will be hard to realize.
“The main problem is that there is no system of disposing of old cars properly. What will they do with the old cars? Also, there is no target audience for the program – most people who drive old cars will not be able to afford a new one, even with the 50,000 rouble voucher. It's simply not enough,” motoring journalist Sergey Alsanyan said.
Boris Lakhmetkin is also doubtful, and he is not planning on handing in any of his prized possessions.
“Most of the cars on the roads are not vintage, they are just old. The program will get rid of them. It’s a good idea. But I will not give any of mine away for a voucher. I would perhaps trade with a collector say from Europe for a similar classic, but not for a new car,” he said.
Indeed, the highlight of Lakhmetkin’s collection is a Nissan President, a one-of-a-kind made in 1973. Its original owner happened to be Soviet Leader Leonid Brezhnev. Boris says no amount of money in the world will make him part with it.
Authorities hope to get 200,000 old vehicles off the streets. Similar programs in the US and Europe have been successful, and in Germany alone car sales rose by 19%.
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