x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Region in the fast lane for car sales

Car sales across the Middle East pick up as strong consumer confidence overcomes financial and supply issues.

Car makers such as Nissan and Toyota have also had to deal with supply issues in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan in March. Satish Kumar / The National
Car makers such as Nissan and Toyota have also had to deal with supply issues in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan in March. Satish Kumar / The National

Car sales are accelerating across the Middle East as consumer confidence remains strong despite changes to financing rules and supply issues.

Ford and Renault are two of the fastest growing brands across the Emirates, while 4x4s and cross-overs continue to drive the market.

General Motors enjoyed its 12th consecutive month of sales growth last month, up overall in the Middle East by 21 per cent in the third quarter to 35,565 cars, compared with the same period a year ago.

"September capped an outstanding 12 months for GM Middle East," said John Stadwick, the president and managing director for GM in the region.

Sales of 4x4s across General Motors three brands - Chevrolet, GMC and Cadillac - increased by 30 per cent in the three months until the end of last month and sales of crossover cars, those combining features of a 4x4 with features from a passenger vehicle, increased by 37 per cent in the same period.

Ford also had a robust quarter, topping off nine months of customers snapping up the US brand.

Its biggest 4x4, the Expedition, increased sales by 130 per cent in the first nine months and the new model Edge crossover jumped 70 per cent in the same period.

This compares with overall growth across all Ford models of 57 per cent in the Middle East and 37 per cent in the UAE in the same period.

"More and more customers are choosing Ford thanks to its strong new products, and this is helping us grow stronger and gain market share across the region," said Larry Prein, the managing director for Ford in the Middle East.

All dealers have had to adapt to a new financing landscape this year after the Central Bank introduced changes to lending rules, which mean customers now have to come up with a 20 per cent deposit to buy a car with a loan.

Many dealers now help customers by paying for deposit or by offering other perks, such as free insurance.

Car makers such as Nissan and Toyota have also had to deal with supply issues in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan in March.

Meanwhile, the French manufacturer Renault continues to build its footprint in the UAE. It is gaining a large following through social media and marketing, and by rolling out new products such as the Safrane saloon and the Megane hatchback.

Arabian Automobiles, the exclusive Renault, Nissan and Infiniti distributor in Dubai and the Northern Emirates, said sales increased 59 per cent in the eight months up to the end of August. Sales of Nissan increased 20 per cent despite supply issues and Infiniti grew 23 per cent, in the same period.

Emirates Motor Company, part of the Al Fahim Group, reported a 10 per cent increase in sales of Mercedes-Benz across Abu Dhabi in the first nine months of the year and 17 per cent growth in the third quarter. Sales of Jeep cars increased 21 per cent in the third quarter, driven by the new Gran Cherokee, it said.

"The market is definitely stronger, but sales have been helped by new products," said Chris Preston, the chief executive of automotive at Al Fahim. "We have had some great financing rates from the banks, which has galvanised people into action, but I also think the underlying picture in Abu Dhabi is getting stronger."

In the luxury segment, car makers indicate sales are set to grow by a record 20 per cent this year, according to numbers this week from IHS Automotive, a consultancy. The figure is more than double the growth in the previous year of 9.7 per cent.

rjones@thenational.ae