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Importer Plans to Market Inexpensive Greek Trucks

Associated Press

An Arizona importer, who plans to sell inexpensive Greek trucks in this country, is banking on buyer interest like that generated by the Yugo, a bargain-priced Yugoslavian mini-car.

Ronald Barreto, president of Automotive Imports & Marketing of Phoenix, said he’ll begin U.S. sales of a Greek utility truck called the Desta in about four months.

Barreto said he intends to import 20,000 Destas to the Northeast and bring in more “hopefully within the next 18 months, when we have the whole country set up.”

The Desta would be the second import to hit the U.S. market this year from a lower-volume, European producer.

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Less Than $5,000

Earlier this month, the Yugo, a mini-car made in Yugoslavia by the Zastava motor works, was introduced in this country with a base price of $3,990. Orders for the car have been brisk.

Barreto said that, like the Yugo importers, he intends to make price the main selling point. The utility truck will have a base price of less than $5,000, he said.

“I think certainly we’ll be looking at many markets, including younger buyers and many older buyers,” Barreto said Monday in a telephone interview. “When you think that the average price of a car is $11,500--a lot of families cannot put out that chunk of change.”

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Barreto said he plans to offer several versions of the Desta, including a pickup, van and station wagon. Hard, soft and removable plastic tops will be available, he said.

At 94.5 inches, the two-wheel-drive vehicle is a little shorter than a Jeep CJ-7.

Assembled in Greece

It will have a 1.6-liter engine, four-speed transmission and other parts manufactured by Ford Motor’s West German subsidiary, Barreto said. Four wheel drive eventually will be offered, he said.

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The vehicles are assembled in Greece by Namco, a company headed by Peter Kondogouris, Barreto said.

Another company owned by Kondogouris, Inthelco, is building a plant in West Germany that also will produce the vehicle.

Barreto said he will get vehicles from that plant as well, although he declined to discuss specific figures.

Namco has been in business for 30 years, Barreto said. The Desta is “the second generation” of the Citroen Pony, a vehicle that the company produced for 14 years.

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The Desta is undergoing federal crash and pollution tests, he said. “We don’t think certification is a major problem.”


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