Greek’s prime minister Alexis Tsipras said that yesterday’s referendum vote “doesn’t have winners or losers.” That’s not true. There’s a very plausible scenario in which that the long term effect of that one “no” vote ends up meaning there’s no 400 hp crazy Czech hatchback for you to buy.
As background, allow me to give a fairly neutral explanation of what’s going on in Greece right now in case you’re suddenly seeing the word “GREXIT” everywhere and assume it’s some sort of greek yogurt version of Go-Gurt (an idea trademarked by my buddy Dan).
Basically, the Europeans let Greece into their fancy currency despite the fact that the Greek economy has been of questionable stability since Plato took out a second mortgage on his allegorical cave. After the Great Recession everyone realized how huge Greece’s debts were, how they’d been basically misleading everyone about how huge they were, and how tough it would be to repay. The rest of Europe — in the form of the European Commonwealth Bank and the International Monetary Fund — came to the rescue with big loans, but they (and by “they” I mostly mean Ze Germans) demanded huge concessions.
Some of these moves towards “austerity” made sense since the average Greek citizen appears to work 12 hours a week, plans to retire at 34, and chronically underpays their taxes. However, the implementation of these measures has resulted in basically no improvement to the economy. In order to secure more money to bail themselves out, the IMF demanded more austerity, although they’re crazy if they think that would actually work.
Greece, tired of getting pushed around by Ze Germans, staged a referendum on whether or not to accept the terms. They decided against it, and that’s forced the rest of the countries who use the Euro to decide whether or not they’re going to kick them out (thus GREXIT) and send them back to the currency from whence they came (the Drachma).
What will actually happen? I have no idea. No one has any idea. But it could be bad for you.
The Greeks don’t build cars. The Greeks don’t even buy a particularly huge number of cars. They mostly just look good in cars.
Everyone else in Europe buys cars, though, and they’ve been on a car-buying spree. Why not? The economy is better, people feel good, their cars are getting old and new cars are getting better. However, that “people feel good” part of the equation could easily go out the window if everyone’s worried about Greece.
Even then, if you’re not a carmaker or work for a carmaker why do you particularly care if the European car market falters? Simple: European carmakers create the kinds of stupid cars we want and love because they can afford to.
The Golf R and Focus RS and other wonderful vehicles that have been exported here are the results of companies that have some measure of swagger, and while projects like those probably won’t be cancelled, you can easily see uncertainty claiming small batch sports cars and diesel hot hatches and all manner of other things rely on a reinvigorated Europe. Cars you don’t even know you want to own will die on the drawing board.
A good economy is good for car enthusiasts, even if companies are making most of their money on boring boxes you’d never own.
Of course, the opposite could happen. Everyone could feel so good to finally get the Greeks out of their house that they’ll all feel better and go on a spending spree, leading Renault to build the 400 horsepower Alpine sports car we all know they have in them. The ECB and Greece could make a deal. All sorts of things could happen.
Pray for chill-ass Germans.
Photo Credit: Daniel Ochoa de Olza/AP
Business Time is Jalopnik head honcho Matt Hardigree’s regular column about the business of building and selling cars. He can be reached at at email@example.com.