Flash, brash and expensive. But to others they are works of art. Mitya Underwood looks at the world of the supercars
Dh1.5m, OK. Do you have it in red? The UAE's love affair with supercars
DUBAI // "They don't really drive them, we get them back after a year or two with 800 or 1,000 kilometres on the clock," says salesman Sherwin Patel. "These are not runaround vehicles. They are in a different league."
Mr Patel, from Mumbai, joined Exotic Cars in Dubai less than a year ago after leaving a job in medical sales. He is now the business's top salesman and works in the main showroom on Sheikh Zayed Road.
"There's no secret to selling these cars, but with things this expensive, the key is to find what the customer wants, not what you think they should want.
"People spending this much money know what they want. These are investments, like a house or a piece of art."
Most of the cars sold at Exotic Cars are not the sort you see cruising down Jumeirah Beach Residence on a Friday evening. They are exclusive, and often kept away from prying eyes.
Among those on sale at the moment is a two-door Lamborghini Aventador LP700. The 2012 coupe with a 6.5-litre engine and just 3,000km on the clock has a white exterior and a hard-to-miss orange and black interior, and a recommended retail price in the United States of nearly US$400,000 (Dh1.46 million).
But look for it in the showroom and you will look in vain - because it is parked on a potential buyer's driveway.
"We send cars out for viewings to some special customers," says Mr Patel. "They just park them outside their house as furniture so it's important to see how it looks as part of a collection.
"These are important clients to us. If they remain happy, they will remain customers, so we go the extra mile to please them."
One of the most striking cars in the showroom, and definitely not to everyone's taste, is a Dh1.1m Bentley Mulsanne.
The glittery purple paint job is a far cry from traditional Bentley vehicles, such as the one Britain's Queen Elizabeth is driven around in.
The slightly garish colour, Mr Patel insists, will be perfect "for a buyer in Al Ain" because it is an exact match to the team colours of Al Ain Football Club.
Although the colour might not appeal to the widest of audiences, the showroom never modifies its vehicles. "We never do anything with the cars. We don't play around with the cars, that is our first rule.
"Whatever comes from the factory, we leave it that way because it's a trust issue. If a customer finds out that their car has been resprayed it is a huge issue. The integrity of the car is lost."
As with paintings or sculptures, they may not appeal to everyone, but it is the craftsmanship that is worth the money.
Unlike pieces of art, which go up in value over time, the cars depreciate as soon as they leave the forecourt. For some, however, the money is irrelevant.
"He wants to buy for his son. He is really into these sorts of cars," says Ahmed Buhazza, 51, who is accompanying his friend Mr Abdulatif on his business trip to Dubai from Saudi Arabia. "He was interested in the Ferrari but I have convinced him to buy an Aston Martin instead. It is my favourite car."
Mr Abdulatif is in the city for only a few days and initially had no plans to buy a car.
"I decided I'm going to ship it to Manchester to my son, he has a BMW at the moment. It will be a surprise for him. What do you think, Ferrari or Aston Martin? I can't decide."
He opts for the Aston Martin, but then tries in vain to have Dh100,000 knocked off the asking price for cash "to get the keys today". In the end he leaves empty handed but says he may return tomorrow to buy the Ferrari.
As well as a lot of buyers from the Arabian Gulf, Mr Patel says there are a large number of Russians, Azerbaijanis and Africans on the showroom's client list. And the numbers have been growing in recent years.
One car attracting a lot of admiring looks is a Dh1.2m 2009 Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Convertible. The red car has a matt silver bonnet and red leather seats. In the three years since it was built it has covered only 13,000km.
After some heated discussion and serious negotiating, an Azerbaijani man retrieves $20,000 in cash from his car to put down as a deposit to make sure the Rolls is his.
But not all the showroom's visitors are in the millionaires' club.
Nasser Salem Al Kitbi, from Abu Dhabi, is trying to track down a used Porsche Cayenne. The 28-year-old policeman - who admits he wears his seatbelt "maybe 70 per cent of the time" - will take out a bank loan to cover the Dh290,000 price.
"I have been wanting to buy one for five or six years, I just haven't found one that I like," he says. "Even used, it's expensive." On his policeman's salary he is unlikely to become a repeat buyer like one of Mr Patel's best customers, Achraf Joosub, who runs a successful cosmetic import and export businesses.
Mr Joosub, 51, admits to spending upwards of Dh10m on his collection but cannot recall exactly how many cars he has bought or how many he owns.
"I'm always buying cars from here," he boasts. "It's the same everywhere, men like women and cars. But some of the younger ones here have too much money and they are too spoilt. There's a lot of arrogance as well. I am older, I have worked hard. This is how I like to spend my money."
Hisam Binsuwaif, 35, a legal consultant, disagrees that every young person who owns a supercar is arrogant. "The car doesn't change me," he insists. "I am who I am."
He does, however, admit that he drives a 2011 Rolls-Royce Phantom even though it is not very comfortable and should be driven slowly - not so practical on the motorway. The Dh1.1 million car, a gift from his father, also attracts a lot of unwanted attention. "When I drive down the street people are shocked, they keep staring at me. I got used to their reaction but sometimes I'm scared."
* Additional reporting by Ayesha Al Khoori