x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Aston Martin showroom to open in Dubai

Aston Martin, a marque that's been largely absent from the UAE's car showrooms, is coming to Dubai.

Neil Slade, the general manager for Aston Martin Middle East and North Africa.
Neil Slade, the general manager for Aston Martin Middle East and North Africa.

When I moved from the United Kingdom to the UAE 18 months ago, I was expecting to see the world's most beautiful, most exciting and most exclusive cars on the road, and I was not disappointed. But one marque, Aston Martin, has been conspicuous by its almost total absence and I've sorely missed it, although it looks like the company will be making its presence felt (and heard) very shortly. Aston makes some of the most beautiful sports cars ever to turn a wheel - the prospect of seeing more of them on our streets is, to me at least, a very, very good thing.

"Do you know how many cars Aston Martin sold in Dubai last year?" asks Neil Slade, the region's newly appointed man in charge. "Six."

Those six cars were sold through Al Habtoor, which operated the previous dealership in Deira, to owners who wanted to trade their cars in for new models. So it was possible to buy a new Aston, but there was next to no marketing to support this.

Something radical needed to be done to redress this almost criminal status quo with one of the world's most beloved car brands. And, as Slade explains, it's been a long, hard slog for more than two years to get to the position the company is in right now: just about to open the doors to its dedicated showroom in Dubai. Situated right opposite the main entrance to The Dubai Mall, it's smack bang in the middle of some of the world's most desirable real estate. Things are looking up, then.

"As a company, we strive to be independent in everything we do," says Slade. And now we've managed to get our own dealership right where we want it. Obviously we've missed out on sales in the past few years but better late than never, eh?"

I couldn't agree more and, as he shows me a series of photographs of the ongoing work at the Dubai showroom, which is almost complete, it's like looking at the family photo album of a close friend. I've missed these guys.

In many respects, although the company coffers could have done with UAE sales recently, the timing could not be better, as Slade continues. "We're launching our new flagship, the Vanquish, with the first media drives happening in early October. When that event is over, there will be a Vanquish on display in the Dubai dealership, along with several other current models." The Cygnet city car, he acknowledges, won't be one of them. "We didn't put it through the GCC-specific tests," he says, "didn't think the potential sales figures would make it worth our while."

The other reason this is excellent timing is that the new James Bond film, Skyfall, is to be released just a few weeks from now. And although there isn't a new Aston seen on screen, there is some DB5 action to be enjoyed and, whatever anyone thinks, that will be good for sales of the latest ones. There aren't many companies, motoring or otherwise, that can touch Aston Martin's levels of coolness.

"We do need to be here," Slade admits. "If a business isn't operating in the UAE then I'd question whether it's really a business at all. We'll be concentrating only on Dubai when it comes to our sales operations, at least for the foreseeable future, but in Abu Dhabi we already have a service centre operated with Al Habtoor, and that really is state of the art. In Dubai, also, we will have the very latest facilities for keeping these wonderful cars in the very best condition. We'll be hitting the ground running."

The model lineup is becoming simpler, too, he says. "We did have too many individual models for a time, but we've changed that. Virage production has ceased and the new Vanquish is replacing the DBS. So the gap between the new DB9 - and that's not far off - and the flagship Vanquish will be wider. It needed to be. Then, with the V8 and V12 Vantage models at the smaller end of the spectrum, and a heavily revised [four-door] Rapide imminent, we'll have a more distinct selection of cars to offer our customers. There won't be any confusion and the styling will set the models apart more."

Exciting times, then. Slade, who only recently landed on these dusty shores, is clearly thrilled at the prospect of seeing more Astons on the road, too. "I've been with Aston Martin for years now," he adds, "and I've performed roles in many different disciplines. I know how these cars work, how they're made. I know the guys and girls who make them. And I'm hugely confident that customers here are hungry for what we do."

Nobody can survive by selling six cars a year in this part of the world, but a corner has been turned. While the family is busy torturing itself, shopping in the world's largest mall, you won't have too far to trundle to immerse yourself in true automotive art. No doubt there's a team of cleaning staff at the ready, to mop up drool and remove hundreds of nose prints from the large windows. Go on, you know you want to.