x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

The winning bid takes the wheels in Dubai

Once a week, people gather at Ras al Khor to kick the tyres on a large variety of vehicles, hoping to drive away in a bargain. They are also entertained by the auctioneer, a pro who puts on a show.

Dana Shaheen, 21, an American, looks at what might be her first car.
Dana Shaheen, 21, an American, looks at what might be her first car.

On location: Auto Market, Ras al Khor, Dubai.

Once coveted and necessary, the vehicles became such a burden their owners abandoned them to gather dust on the street.

Once a week, however, they become objects of desire once again. At an automobile auction on the outskirts of Dubai, their suitors range from owners of small business owners and average motorists to total petrolheads, all looking for the best deal in town.

Among those at last week's event was Abdullah Bavazeer, an engineer from India who had his heart set on a Peugeot 407 that had been on the auction website for several weeks. When it came up for bids, he was prepared.

"You have to think quickly and you have to know when to stop," he said. "I decided on a price of Dh25,000 and I didn't want to go higher than that."

Mr Bavazeer's quest ended with his winning the bidding at Dh23,000, at the low end of the auction's price spectrum of between Dh20,000 and Dh160,000.

The majority of vehicles in the auction were being sold on behalf of banks because their former owners were unable or unwilling to keep up their loan payments. The vehicles were then repossessed and sold to recoup some of their value.

Some 120 cars are sold every Wednesday at the auto market in Ras al Khor by Golden Bell Auction, which was established in Dubai 10 years ago. Amir Dagash, the company's 48-year-old director, is the auctioneer.

Speaking in a rapid-fire hybrid of Arabic and English, he sounds like an old-fashioned scat singer as he calls the bids.

"Its not just a job, it's a performance," said Mr Dagash, who is from Sudan. "Half of my work is to entertain people. If they are bored they won't sit there for three or four hours."

Mr Dagash has travelled as far afield as London, Los Angeles and Seoul to learn his trade.

He is the third generation of auctioneers in his family and counts his father as his greatest business inspiration. Yet as a father of seven himself, he would not want any of his sons to make a living pounding the gavel.

"It's just too stressful," he said. "I just want to make sure they have the highest qualifications, and then they can make their own decisions."

The auction, which takes place in the Dubai Municipality's used-car showroom complex, is split into two locations: the indoor auction hall and a yard in which the majority of the cars are parked. Inside the auction theatre is a window onto a lighted ramp, up which the cars are driven when their lots are drawn.

The set-up is almost like "catwalk modelling for cars", said Khurram Rizvi, an auditor from India who came looking for a car for personal use. He was not impressed by what was on offer at the auction.

"The prices are about normal market rates and the quality isn't that good," Mr Rizvi said. "You can't take the car for a test drive either."

Still, each car receives a full inspection and their technical faults are listed in detail on the windscreen. The problems ranged from faulty windscreen wipers and dead batteries to bad brakes and body damage.

Still, every vehicle in last week's auction drew at least one bid despite its deficiencies.

Down the road, Mr Bavazeer said he would consider selling a car in the auction because of the event's popularity.

"There are so many cars and so many buyers here," he said. "If you want to sell a car there's a guarantee that it will be sold, by hook or by crook."