Italian tobacconist Giuseppe Surce plunged forward this spring with what many crisis-weary Europeans are forgoing: a new-car purchase.

Wanting a pint-size ride to save on fuel, Mr. Surce looked at models including the zippy Fiat 500. Instead, he chose a Volkswagen.

The clincher? With the 6% interest rate that Turin-based Fiat SpA was promoting, its 500 was too much for his budget. Volkswagen, on the other hand, offered a 0% loan on a comparably priced “Up” model with more features, such as a GPS navigator.

“With the Up, I saw the financing, so I took it,” said Mr. Surce, who lives near Florence. “The 500 cost more and was worth less.”


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