How Europe's rich hide their fast cars

Buyers of luxury cars in the European Union countries hardest hit by the financial meltdown are doing it tough.

But not in the way you might have imagined.

True, sales of high-end vehicles have fallen, but the real dilemma for owners of Ferraris, Lamborghinis and McLarens is one of image.

Speaking at the launch of the McLaren 12C Spider in Spain this week, McLaren's head of communications and public relations, Wayne Bruce, admitted that supercars were on the nose in cash-strapped EU countries such as Italy, Spain and Greece.

And while most owners are managing to hang on to their high-end cars, many of them are too scared to drive them.

But it's not upsetting the peasants that worries the rich and famous; rather it's the spectre of being seen to be a conspicuous consumer and being dragged in for a tax department audit as a result.

“Obviously,” Bruce says, “this can be a real worry if you have something to hide”.

“Put simply, the rich in places like Italy are hiding their wealth.

“Italian car owners can be audited and so conspicuous wealth is not to be encouraged at the moment.”

Some owners are reportedly sending the hired help out to have luxury cars serviced and refuelled, rather than drive them themselves and be recognised.

But it's not just big-dollar cars that are causing consternation.

“One of the biggest selling items in Greece right now is Astro-Turf,” Mr Bruce says.

“It's being used to cover up and hide swimming pools from prying eyes in helicopters.”