Arab Expats Driving Record Car Sales

01/28/2013 6:00 am EST

Focus: GLOBAL

An influx of Arab expatriates into Dubai has helped increase car sales in the region to record highs, writes Triska Hamid of The National.

Ford (F) and Audi's Middle East divisions have boosted sales in the country as wealthy Arabs flee from the economic and political turmoil in the region, particularly in Syria and Egypt.

"There seems to be a lot of wealthy expats moving to Dubai from various nationalities who seem to like the Audi brand," said Trevor Hill, the managing director of Audi Middle East.

Sales of Audi cars grew 16.4% last year in the region, while Ford enjoyed a 10% year-on-year sales growth, with 55% growth in the UAE alone. Higher disposable incomes from government stimulus packages in the GCC are expected to further drive up sales for car manufacturers.

"We have markets with high expat ratio and markets with high local ratio," said Felix Weller, the director of sales at Audi Middle East. "Our percentage of customer groups have not changed, but we have increased our sales expectations [as a result]."

Audi is looking to double sales in the Middle East region by 2020 as it invests $100 million in seven new projects this year. The German manufacturer sold 1.455 million cars last year worldwide, of which 9,155 were from the Middle East. China is the company's biggest market, followed by Germany and the United States.

Currently, the Middle East region ranks 21st in Audi's sales. The company is aiming to make it into the top 20 within the next two years.

"There is a very strong car culture here with multiple cars per family, which is great in terms of selling volume," said Hill. "The trend of car business is moving to the East, starting with the Middle East, India, and China. That's where there is still a lot of volume."

The UAE, and particularly Dubai, has become a destination for the world's car manufacturers, according to Hill. In fact, Audi's biggest showroom in the world is on Dubai's Sheikh Zayed Road.

Read more from The National here...

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