Abu Dhabi is on the road to becoming the world's top city for Rolls-Royce sales as the luxury car maker enjoys a boom in its Middle East business amid slower growth globally.
The UAE capital is ranked second behind Beijing for sales of Rolls-Royce vehicles, which cost nearly Dh 1 million (US$272,265) for the entry-level model.
But strong demand in the Middle East could result in Abu Dhabi taking the top spot.
"It might be that Abu Dhabi overtakes the Beijing dealership. I would not be surprised to see that," said Torsten Müller-Ötvös the chief executive of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars. "Abu Dhabi is extremely successful. In general, you see the economy is doing well here - demand picked up significantly for us."
Rolls-Royce, a subsidiary of the German car maker BMW, sold 3,575 cars last year, an increase of 1 per cent on the previous year. That represented a steep drop in its growth rates in 2011 and 2010, when sales rose by 31 per cent and 150 per cent respectively.
But Mr Müller-Ötvös said sales in the Middle East were accelerating faster, clocking in at a 26 per cent rise last year.
"Close to 20 per cent of the total worldwide volume comes from the Middle East," he said.
Higher sales in the Middle East was last year outweighed by weaker momentum in the United Kingdom and China, with Mr Müller-Ötvös acknowledging that demand in China was "weaker than expected" at the beginning of the year.
However, he said it was unlikely that the Middle East would overtake China for total sales.
The United States stood as Rolls-Royce's biggest single market last year, having overtaken China. Mainland Europe, including Russia, was its third-biggest market, followed by the Middle East and Asia-Pacific.
Despite the low growth, last yearmarked a record high for Rolls-Royce sales, and Mr Müller-Ötvös said he expected that to continue this year.
"Worldwide, I'm cautiously optimistic," he said. "We should see another record year this year".
While the recession has hit some car makers hard, Rolls-Royce has enjoyed big increases in sales.
"I would not say that everything is doom and gloom worldwide," said Mr Müller-Ötvös. "We have seen a lot of markets growing quite fast, like the Middle East."
Abu Dhabi Motors, which imports BMW Group cars, said yesterday that its vehicle sales in the Middle East hit 5,358 last year, a 21 per cent increase on the previous year.
Upmarket car makers have performed well compared with several mass-market brands that have been hit hard by the recession.
Jaguar Land Rover, which is owned by India's Tata Motors, announced global sales of 357,773 vehicles last year, a leap of 30 per cent.