Last week in Motoring, we reported that Abu Dhabi Motors had been awarded the title of Best Bespoke Dealer Worldwide of Rolls-Royce cars in 2012. That is quite an accomplishment when you consider how small the capital of the UAE actually is, in comparison with many of the regions around the world that enjoy success in selling the world's premier luxury car brand.
Rolls-Royce's Bespoke programme of personalisation is possibly the most accommodating in the business - there are practically no limits as to what you can get the company to do when building your car, and this is something that brand manager for Rolls-Royce at Abu Dhabi Motors, Kadhim Al Helli, has seized upon with gusto. The results speak for themselves as the dealership's shelves begin to buckle under the weight of all the trophies bestowed upon it by the people at the Goodwood HQ in the UK.
"People in this region, they love attention to detail," explains Al Helli. "When I visit clients at their homes, everything these people surround themselves with is full of intricate detail. You wouldn't believe some of the things I have seen. I firmly believe that the Middle East is the richest part of the world when it comes to culture and history, and this is reflected in the way our people live their lives, in the things they design and the things they spend their money on."
Al Helli has a strong background in art and design - that is his hobby - but he has managed to turn that personal interest into business gold by paying close attention to the requirements of his fastidious customers. "I do things differently," he smiles. "When I order a car I approach it much the same way as painting a picture. And when I present the results to customers, they buy from me. They're not buying simply new cars; they're buying unique one-offs that won't be available to anyone else. And that is important for the region we are in."
He goes on to explain what we probably all knew in the first place - that people here don't like to wait. See it, like it, buy it - that seems to be the purchasing mantra in the UAE and it causes a problem when you look at the lead times involved with the Bespoke service. "Some of these projects take over a year to come to fruition," he says, "so I make sure there is no waiting, by having cars delivered that I know will appeal to our customers. I specify them, order them and make them available."
He has been with Abu Dhabi Motors since 1999, moving over from BMW to Rolls-Royce when the franchise was secured in 2004. "I immediately set out a sales strategy and the results have been consistently impressive. We ordered the first Bespoke car in the world, the first coachbuilt car, the first limousine, the first armoured Rolls-Royce [from the factory]. And we were the first dealership in the world to achieve three-digit annual sales."
Lurking behind a partition at one end of the exquisite Abu Dhabi showroom is a new Wraith. It's an utterly stunning thing to behold and Al Helli is convinced it will be a big seller in the region, without stealing sales from the rest of the Rolls-Royce range when it goes on sale at the end of the summer. "No other carmaker has a range like this one," he assures me. "Each model is totally unique and the Wraith will attract a new, different type of customer who wants a Rolls-Royce that's dynamic, extremely powerful and has its own style."
No doubt Al Helli has ordered a number of them but he's remaining tight-lipped about that. What's obvious when you speak with him, though, is that he's a walking encyclopaedia on local history and culture. He's a storyteller who uses the world's most luxurious motorcars to highlight the uniqueness of this region, whether it's a Phantom decked out with mother of pearl trim, or amber highlights in the dashboard veneer, or maritime colour schemes that relate to this nation's seafaring traditions. And it's only the Bespoke programme that allows him this level of artistic freedom.
Is he not concerned, however, that other dealerships will follow his example and poach sales? "I don't believe anyone else would spend the amount of time I do in researching and specifying these cars, so no. This is my hobby, it's what I love doing," he concludes. He's probably right about that - Kadhim Al Helli is as unique as the cars he sells.
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