Lamborghini will be conspicuous by its absence at this year's Dubai International Motor Show. However, Martin Andrews, the marque's sales area manager for the Middle East, India and South Africa, is quick to point out that this is not a sign of decline. "We have nothing new to pull a sheet off at the motor show," he explains at a press test drive day at Abu Dhabi's Yas Marina Circuit. "There is not much point unless you have something to show."
With no new models to launch, Andrews says that the company is promoting Lamborghini via other means, such as track days for customers and test drives for members of the press. These work out to be more affordable ways to promote the brand compared with the cost of setting up a stand at a motor show. Sales and market share figures for 2009 have not yet been released, but Andrews says that it has been a "year of consistency" for Lamborghini and the Middle East market remains strong despite the recession. The UAE remains the strongest market in the region "by quite a long way" followed by Qatar and Saudi Arabia. He says that Middle Eastern buyers, in common with those in other markets, generally like to take their time with car purchases.
"People [in the Middle East] want to really think about the car before they make a decision, take it for a test drive but previously cars would just sell themselves." The shift in buyer behaviour in the Middle East from buying high-end cars with little prior consideration to more thoughtful decisions has kept Lamborghini dealers on their toes. "The danger was that dealers could become a bit lazy," says Andrews. But he says that the Middle East dealers are not waiting for sales to come to them. "There has been an increased focus on customer service and that commitment is paying off.
There are no immediate plans to expand dealerships in the Middle East, according to Andrews. "We are really pleased with our dealer network and don't see a huge need to expand," he says. "We are well-represented but will assess each country's performance throughout next year." "Nobody seems particularly perturbed," says Andrews when the news broke about Dubai World requesting a six month hold on loan repayments. "We knew all knew about the situation in Dubai from months ago, it was not new news to us."
"The great thing about the UAE is that is a very positive kind of culture," says Andrews. "Nobody wants to be seen to be wallowing in bad news so they deal with it quickly - this is just a point in time where there are economic problems but it's not the end of the world." "There was the usual summer lull which was closely followed by Ramadan but when the news [about Dubai World] broke, it came at the end of our best month for the year so far and December here is a good buying month because there isn't the same shutdown over Christmas that you get elsewhere."
"The recession changed mentalities - people are a little more careful with money and it has improved customer service, sharpened skills and people have raised the game - those who do a good job will do well," says Andrews, counting the Lamborghini dealerships of the region among those who are doing a good job. "The businesses [in Dubai] that stopped are the ones that were riding the wave - you need a number of factors for success such as sustainability."
Andrews took up his position with Lamborghini in the Middle East after working for three and a half years at a UK dealership. "I spent six months out of the first 18 observing and seeing what the requirements were for this market - things such as press cars for the media, something we don't always do in other markets, are important, and I've learnt that this market is closer to other regions around the world in terms of the buying dynamics." email@example.com