x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Build momentum at Motor World

Motor World will be great, someday, but it's not truly ready for business yet . Patience and planning can make it all right.

The capital's used-car dealers are dragging their feet, The National reported yesterday, at moving from their cramped city locations to spacious purpose-built quarters near Abu Dhabi Airport.

Their reluctance is easy to explain: the new site in Al Shamkha, known as Motor World, has its drawbacks: no running water, unfinished premises and high rents.

Requiring dealers to move under such circumstances would obviously be a hardship on both customers and sellers. Yet the deadline set for dealers was April 1. So far, not one has opened at the new location, although some dealers have reportedly taken possession of their new premises. The sprawling 3 million sq m development was designed to include new and used-car showrooms, a test track, residential areas, a hotel, banks, family entertainment, restaurants and more. So far, however, the site has only a few unfinished, isolated buildings.

There are good arguments in favour of moving the industry out of town. Areas where used-car dealerships now cluster have parking congestion (although this has been eased by Mawaqif), which is a difficulty for customers and a worse one for residents. Officials say there are safety concerns as well.

The mandate behind Motor World has not so far been matched by accomplishment. At some point the new centre, as a comprehensive automotive mega mall, should attain a critical mass. Imagine an attractive district where buyers and their families can go to kick the tyres, compare makes and models, do some bargaining, have a test drive - and with luck drive home in the car they just bought.

The problem is in the transition. Officials may begin by extending the deadline for dealers to move out to Motor World, or at least by refraining from imposing penalties. This is only reasonable, since construction has moved slowly: phase one, with 118 showrooms, was to have been ready last October, the developer Aldar said last June.

There is also a case for moderating initial rents until the whole area gets up to speed. Speedy and cheap transit from town to the site would also be helpful. This project can be made to work, but such a big change in a major retail field demands time and attention to detail.