| 15 November, 2017

Dubai Motorshow: UAE's luxury car sales could be the first to recover

Al Nabooda Automobiles' chief banking on new Cayenne and Audi Q8 to be sales boosters

Image used for illustrative purpose. 
Emirati men check technical specifications of a Porsche Cayenne at the Dubai International Motor Show November.

Image used for illustrative purpose. Emirati men check technical specifications of a Porsche Cayenne at the Dubai International Motor Show November.

REUTERS/Martin Dokoupil
Dubai - When the red-hot new Porsche Cayenne SUV is hitting your showrooms by Q1 next, chances are that you don’t need to be too concerned about what 2018 has in store. K. Rajaram, CEO of Al Nabooda Automobiles, is not one to worry. (In fact, with the Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli being piped through the office speakers, Rajaram is wearing a look of quiet contentment.)  

If the Cayenne – an all-time best-selling model in its category in the UAE – cannot alone do the job of giving a booster shot to sales, there is the Audi Q8 introduction, set for late 2018. With the Q8 (the concept model was first shown off at the 2017 North American International Motor Show), Audi is making a well-considered expansion of its SUV family, currently led by the Q7.

With the Cayenne on one side and the Q8 on the other, Rajaram reckons that enough demand is out there to make for one great ride through 2018. Of course, the benefits from having the latest Audi A8 iteration can be of help as well. 

“I believe the UAE’s luxury car market should be the first to see an upturn, and something similar to what was there in 2011,” said Rajaram. “We started taking pre-orders on the Cayenne… there’s just a marginal 2-3 per cent increase in the showroom price from the earlier model.

“This is a model with a cult following, bringing in buyers who want to change the moment a new version comes out with major changes. The A8 too has that sort of pull and we have started taking pre-orders, even though it’s only due in the second-half.” 

Any early respite in 2018 from the horrors of 2016 and 2017 would be greeted by everyone in the UAE auto industry. Auto sales had taken such a hit all through this period, and it was only tight inventory management that helped stave off greater risks.

Rajaram is brutal with words about how life in the auto lane has been of late. “The whole of this year, we have lived on customer care and aftersales. People are keeping their cars for longer; what they used to throw off in three or four years, they are keeping for five and more.

“If they keep it longer, they have to come in for more service and repairs. The only thing that will pay off in such a market situation is anything that is connected with after-sales.

“Change is already starting to happen in the UAE auto retail scene. Footprint at showrooms are falling… but we can live with that. People still come to look at the cars - Who wouldn’t want to look at a Porsche GT3 RS in my showroom… even if there aren’t many in a position to buy them. There were 200 people come in to see the car.

“The great advantage we have as a company is that all the facilities are built and paid for. There’s no pressure on us and these assets will last us for another 20 years.”

Reporting By Manoj Nair

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