* Luxury cars out of style as economy struggles to grow
* Tens of thousands of cars owned by Italy's public bodies
* Alfa Romeo, BMW lead the bidding
By Naomi O'Leary
ROME, March 28 Italy's government is selling off
scores of official cars including Jaguars and Maseratis on
online auction site eBay as it strives to show it is
responding to public pressure to cut spending and the privileges
of the powerful.
A total of 151 vehicles, including 40 BMWs, are up for sale
- a fraction of a 60,000-strong fleet owned by Italy's public
bodies that the state estimates costs more than 1 billion euros
($1.37 billion) a year to run.
The auction is unlikely to make a dent in Italy's 2 trillion
euro debt. But it is widely seen as a highly visible and
symbolic move by new Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.
Popular fury at the luxuries enjoyed by the political elite
at a time of economic hardship helped the anti-establishment
5-Star Movement sweep up a quarter of votes in its first
national election a year ago.
But Renzi, who took power in a February party coup, has
sought to transform the public mood with promises of tax cuts,
ambitious reforms and a less ostentatious style.
He drove to a meeting with his predecessor Enrico Letta,
shortly before he replaced him, at the wheel of a blue Smart
So far online bidding has been concentrated on a grey Alfa
Romeo 166, with a current top offer of 8,621 euros.
A BMW 525d, with camel-coloured leather seats, is going for
15,050 euros after 75 bids.
Bidding has yet to open on two Jaguars, among the most
exclusive models on offer. They were previously used by the
Justice Ministry, which had a fleet of more than 830 chauffeured
cars at the end of last year.
Nine Maseratis are also on offer at the auction, which began
two days ago and runs until mid-April.
Italian media reported they were the cars that became the
subject of heated debate when they were ordered by the Defence
Ministry shortly before the government of Silvio Berlusconi
collapsed at the peak of the euro zone debt crisis.
High-end vehicles are a common status symbol for government
officials, and are regularly seen speeding down streets with
little regard for stop lights and most traffic rules.
But Renzi is not the only high profile figure to have
started shunning such public displays. Pope Francis has swapped
the papal Mercedes limousine for a Ford Focus.
($1 = 0.7278 Euros)
(Reporting by Naomi O'Leary; Editing by Andrew Heavens)