RIYADH: US carmaker General Motors (GM) last week reported that its global first quarter profit was $2.98 billion, 12 times what it was last year, despite a global shortage of computer chips affecting production. In the Middle East, sales for the quarter increased 15 percent year-on-year, but in Saudi Arabia the results were even more impressive, with triple-digit increases for some segments.
“We continue to maintain a strong position in the Saudi market, in part this is due to some strong vehicle launches throughout 2020,” Sajed Sbeih, managing director of GM’s commercial operations for Africa and the Middle East, told Arab News. “Overall, Saudi Arabia is the largest market for GM and alone it accounts for 19 percent of all our sales in compact SUVs across the region, up from just 4 percent last year. We also dominate in the full-size SUV segment.”
GM has operated in the Kingdom for around 90 years and currently has 85 sales outlets and 2,700 dealer employees across its three brands: Cadillac, Chevrolet and GMC. In the compact SUV sector, Q1 sales in Saudi Arabia surged by 626 percent year-on-year. The medium-sized SUV segment was up 319 percent year-on-year, pickup trucks saw a 25 percent increase and general vans recorded a 203 percent year-on-year increase in sales.
Like many sectors, the pandemic saw GM ramp up its digital platforms in the region to cater to the travel restrictions in place.
“This was due to the massive efforts our dealer partners have and continue to perform, exceeding all expectations, especially in the Kingdom. We also quickly pivoted and accelerated our e-commerce platform, and the results have been very positive as many customers swapped to digital sales platforms,” Sbeih said.
Another clear trend in 2020 was the rise in demand for cleaner and greener options.
“In December, GM announced a $27 billion investment in autonomous and electric vehicles (EVs) as well as a plan to launch 30 new EVs globally by 2025, and here we are just weeks later delivering on that promise in the Middle East with the Chevrolet Bolt EUV and GMC Hummer EV SUV,” Sbeih added.
GM also made regional inroads in the driverless sector. Last month, it signed an agreement with Dubai’s transport authority to operate its autonomous vehicles in the emirate by 2023. The move will make Dubai the first location outside the US to operate self-driving vehicles and the fleet will reach 4,000 vehicles by 2030.
A catalyst for the Kingdom’s automobile sector was the ban on women driving being lifted.
“Women were always involved in the purchasing process. In fact, some of our Chevrolet vehicles for example were already registered to women prior to the ban and, when the Cadillac XT4 was first introduced in 2019, it was a leader in its segment, witnessing exceptional sales results with women comprising 65 percent of owners in Saudi Arabia.”