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Swiss aftermarket is difficult, despite a strong economy and stable politics

Friday, January 19, 2018 - 09:00
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Switzerland is a rugged landscape dotted with incredible beauty, and the national psyche matches their terrain. The Swiss are known for their discreet banking laws, strict political neutrality and sweet confections. But just as important to the Swiss identity is a dedication to precision, an embrace of individual liberty and a sense of ruggedness in the face of nature.

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These elements of the Swiss psyche combine to make a dynamic market for automobile sales and the aftermarket that has developed from it.

Many people see Switzerland as one relatively small country. It is in fact more like 26 even smaller states, called cantons, that make up Switzerland. The 26 cantons are each independent, but all contribute to a loose federal system that was established in 1848.

Switzerland doesn’t have an official language. Rather, it has three of them. Depending on where you live within the country, you might speak German, French or Italian, with German being the most prominent. Most Swiss tend to speak more than one of these languages, but speaking English or Portuguese is also rather common.

With a population of slightly more than 8 million people, Switzerland is not a big population center, and demographics indicate an overall shrinking population due to more people aging than being born. This is a common factor throughout Western Europe. 

Yet, the Swiss economy outperforms its size, placing it 40th in the world with a gross domestic product (GDP) exceeding $500 billion. Due to its modest population, the per capita GDP ranks 14th, globally, meaning it’s a relatively wealthy nation. How do they derive that wealth?

As a country lacking many raw materials and a limited agricultural output, Switzerland was forced to develop an economy built on transforming imported raw materials into high-added-value goods destined for exportation. Think of items like Swiss chocolates or watches as examples. Swiss banking laws favoring secrecy and privacy also have made the nation a haven for wealthy investors. Tourism also is an important industry in a country rich with natural beauty.

The density of motor vehicle registrations in Switzerland is quite high, with 4.5 million registrations as of 2016, which makes approximately 556 vehicles per 1,000 people. Counties with similar GDPs like Argentina and Saudi Arabia, average about 330 vehicles per 1,000 people. Contrast that with the U.S., where there are 800 vehicles per 1,000 people. Switzerland ranked 22nd in the world for vehicle population density. However, this dense population of vehicles doesn’t necessarily translate to a diversity of vehicles.

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