x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Safety first drives up Ford sales

Ford car sales in the UAE are set to accelerate by 50 per cent this year, partly driven by new models packing high-tech safety features.

A Ford Fiesta comes under scrutiny in Premier Motors' Abu Dhabi showroom. The American car manufacturer is forecasting sales in the UAE to top 13,500 this year. Philip Cheung / The National
A Ford Fiesta comes under scrutiny in Premier Motors' Abu Dhabi showroom. The American car manufacturer is forecasting sales in the UAE to top 13,500 this year. Philip Cheung / The National

Ford car sales in the UAE are set to accelerate by 50 per cent this year, partly driven by new models packing high-tech safety features.

The American motor brand last year sold 9,000 vehicles in the Emirates, and is forecasting sales to top 13,500 this year.

"We're expecting sales this year to be up probably 50 per cent versus last year," said Larry Prein, the managing director for Ford Middle East.

"We sold a little bit over 9,000 vehicles here in 2011."

The executive attributed the higher sales to new models being released and Ford's marketing effects. "Product is a huge driver. And the Ford brand is improving," he said.

Ford Middle East said in July that its sales of Ford and Lincoln models were up by 38 per cent during the first half of the year in the UAE, compared with last year.

Other car brands are also notching up greater sales in the Emirates. GM, which sells Chevrolet, Cadillac and GMC cars, reported an 11 per cent rise in sales in the first half.

Mr Prein was speaking at the Gitex Technology Week in Dubai, where Ford demonstrated the high-tech safety features it has under development.

They range from a cruise control system to a seatbelt that can measure the driver's heart rate and stress levels.

The brand has recently launched its new model, the 2013 Taurus, in the UAE.

"It's got more technology than any other car Ford has had out before," said Mr Prein.

Features include a collision warning system and an "adaptive cruise control" setting, which automatically slows the car to maintain a safe distance with the car in front.

"That helps, especially on the Dubai-to-Abu Dhabi drive, with some of the traffic you get there," said Mr Prein.

Ford also demonstrated some futuristic new safety features it has under development.

Saeed Barbat, Ford's executive technical leader for safety, research and advanced engineering, said the company was working on creating a "biometric" car seat.

The seat uses sensors that gather data on how drivers respond to situations, as it looks to assess their behaviour. Sensors on the steering wheel and seat belt measure the driver's breathing, stress levels, heart rate and temperature; warning systems alert the driver if they are unfit to drive.

"We're about safety for everybody," said Mr Barbat, who also helped to develop seat belts with built-in airbags.

Mr Barbat said the new monitoring systems were not a substitute for a trip to the doctor. "Ford Motor Company will not develop technology to manage your health," he said.

Mr Prein said the new biometric seat technologies would also be launched in the UAE, assuming they reach mass production. Such advanced technologies are five to 10 years away from being incorporated in vehicles, he added.

The executive said technology had a role to play in reducing road deaths in the UAE.

"In Dubai at least, they've said by 2020 the goal is zero deaths. So to get to that level, it has to be a combination of a lot of different things. And technology is probably part of it," said Mr Prein.

bflanagan@thenational.ae