The Dubai International Motor Show was a place where the economic woes of the emirate seemed temporarily non-existent. In contrast to the austere atmosphere of the Detroit Motor Show in January, the year has ended with Dubai's event offering a strong focus on exotic sports cars, luxury vehicles and performance cars for the masses. While the BMW M1 Homage and Corvette's 50th Anniversary Stingray concept appealed to visitors, the show gave super-niche supercars the chance to raise awareness and, hopefully, take orders from buyers.
Jesper Jensen, Zenvo Automotive's co-founder and CEO, is confident the Zenvo ST1 will be a success in the region and will cope with the weather conditions. It has been tested in simulated 50oC heat conditions and has a starting price of around Dh5.5 million. "The ST1 looks different from the competition," according to Jensen. "They are all aiming to be faster and they are all tested in a wind tunnel so they all look much alike."
He says Zenvo is not interested in breaking records - the car has an electronically limited top speed of 375kph - but aims to "produce a car for everyday use. You should be able to start the car without reading the manual and, at 200kph, you can still be talking to each other. You can't do that in other supercars." The Arash stand was intriguing, given the car was covered in a black satin sheet and that there were no plans to unveil the AF-10.
The marque was founded by British entrepreneur Arash Farboud, who first came to prominence with the Farboud GTS, which subsequently became the Farbio sports car. His new supercar is still being tested, but he was glad to be in Dubai to "show that we're here". Images of the sharply angular Dh2.1 million AF-10 were on show on a computer screen and Farboud is hopeful that he can attract the interest of regional buyers.
Junus Khan, Shelby SuperCars' marketing director, also hopes that a combination of power and quality will make the Ultimate Aero a success in the Middle East. "So far, so good," is his assessment of interest in the Dh2.7 million car. "We only make 10 to 12 cars per year," says Khan, adding that it takes 10 weeks to build each car at the Washington State factory. The Lexus LF-A was another highlight with the model that competed in the 24-hour race at Nürburgring on display, complete with scrapes, mud and dead insects from the race.
The 4.8L V10 has 560hp, a top speed in excess of 320kph and a likely price tag of Dh1.37 million. "This car is no longer the stuff of dreams - it's a reality and it is here," says Len Hunt, group director of Al Futtaim's automotive division, the UAE distributors for Lexus. "Only 500 will be built and we are pretty sure that more than 500 people in the UAE will want one - we are taking orders now and are going to push to have as many as possible available here."
The Bugatti stand featured the Veyron and Grand Sport 16.4, but it also showcased a special Grand Sport with some jaw-dropping brushed metal bodywork and a tangerine leather interior, dubbed "Soleil de Nuit" or "Sun of the Night", a Middle East-only special edition. "High presence, low profile," is how Pierre-Henri Raphanel, Bugatti's official driver describes the car, and it is the combination of unique design, raw power and ease of operation that makes them much-coveted cars, even if few can afford one (see our road test of the Bugatti Grand Sport 16.4 in next week's Motoring).
Aston Martin, Bentley and Rolls-Royce were well-represented. The public received its first glimpse of the Rolls-Royce Ghost, the Bentley Mulsanne and the design-led Bentley Continental GTC Series 51. It features a three-tone leather interior and a leather child safety seat. More affordable head-turners were on offer from Peugeot, Honda and Volkswagen. Peugeot has issued a cost-effective challenge to the Audi TT with the unveiling of the RCZ sports car. The hardtop is expected to be priced at around Dh130,000 and includes a six-speed manual or automatic transmission and a curvaceous concave roof. The body work features carbon fibre and the grille has a toothless version of the trademark Peugeot grin.
Honda has gone on an assault on the hot-hatch market. At a pre-show unveiling, three new Honda Civics and a spruced up Honda Accord were revealed. "Hatchbacks are increasing in popularity as the market matures," Shunichi Uchida, general manager of Honda Middle East, said. Whether this maturity will extend to successful sales for the six-speed manual transmission-only Civic Type R remains to be seen. With a fierce face, sparse interior and rigid suede racing seats, it will be a car for serious motorists only.
The more relaxed Civic Mugen and Accord Mugen (the Japanese word for "limitless") will be more about customisation with body kits but with more power than the base model Civics and Accords. Volkswagen's stand didn't feature any new models but it focused on the sporty cars currently on offer, such as the Golf GTI, the new R-series Golf, the Passat R36 and the Scirocco GT 24. To tie in with the theme, Nasser Al Attiya, a Qatari rally driver who will be competing in the Dakar Rally next month in the barely recognisable rally-spec Touareg, was on the stand as a brand ambassador.
"We are unveiling Nasser rather than unveiling any new cars," says Stefan Mecha, the managing director for Volkswagen Middle East. While the souped-up Volkswagens may be in the price range for more drivers, the Dubai International Motor Show did prove that there are still buyers who can afford the prestige cars. The limited edition Mercedes G55 AMG was unveiled alongside the SLS. Only 79 of these will be produced, exclusively for the Middle East. All 79 have already been sold.