Stefan Mecha is the managing director at Volkswagen Middle East. He speaks about why the car company missed out on a big opportunity this year and how it intends to address the problem.
How strong is the Middle East market in comparison with other regions?
The answer is very easy. If you look at our worldwide presence, Volkswagen is extremely strong in Europe. It is extremely strong in South America, it is extremely strong in China and South Africa. In the Middle East, we don't have a very strong presence. Our market share in the region is around 2 per cent, and on average worldwide, we have roughly 10 per cent market share … It means we have a lot of things to do, but the good thing is we know exactly what we have to do to increase our presence.
How are you going to do that?
What we see is that 45 to 50 per cent of the total market is sedan [saloon] cars, but starting from a small car, for us it would be the Polo, up to a Passat size, or even a bit bigger. This is the key segment for us in the future … This is how we're going to attack the market. We have two new products to come next year. One is the Polo as a sedan shape and the second is the Passat … These products will make a big difference to our overall growth.
Which models sell the best here?
This is a very tricky question, because if you asked me it [earlier this year], the answer is the Golf and the Touareg. [But] from May onwards, the answer is clearly the Jetta, because it is the first car from the sedan shape of the new models that we have launched. Honestly speaking, this year we could have sold another 500 to 600 [Touaregs] but we were extremely short of production. We missed some opportunities.
How are you going to make sure it doesn't happen next year?
The Touareg was ramping up last year. It was the first year of production, which means now the situation is more stable. And what we will also see, and we are seeing this already, is economies cooling down a little bit, so the production will balance out a little bit better. We will deliver cars with a higher priority to the Middle East. We're going to still see, starting in January or February, a little bit of issues, but for the rest of the year it looks pretty good.
What are your plans for the UAE generally?
To increase our presence here in the region. We have very important plans with [the VW dealer] Al Nabooda at the moment … So you will see new activities in other emirates like Fujairah and Sharjah. You're going to see the first activity [in Sharjah] by 2012 and probably [Fujairah] by 2013.
* Gillian Duncan