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Impact of a brave decree

Adel Murad
The Saudi royal decree allowing women to drive in the Kingdom is timely, brave and wise.
A surge of sales and activity in the Saudi market is expected by world automakers between now and June 2018 when Saudi women will be allowed to hold driving licenses.
Women are acknowledged as safer drivers by insurance companies, and that is backed up by statistics. The Saudi interior minister tweeted that women drivers would transform traffic safety and in doing so would reduce deaths on the road as well as economic losses resulting from accidents.
Major world media outlets such as Fortune, Forbes and The Washington Post hailed the move as a giant step forward toward economic growth and social transformation, commenting that this was a leap ahead toward implementing Vision 2030.
There are a multitude of implications: The Saudi car market has potential to almost double in size; the need for foreign drivers will be drastically reduced; women will have enhanced chances to work outside the home and take part in more economic activities; and personal welfare and disposable family income will rise.
Already Princess Nourah University, which has 60,000 female students in Riyadh and other cities, is preparing to set up a driving school for women.
Merrill Lynch estimates that the royal decree will put 9 million potential new drivers on the roads, including 2.7 million resident non-Saudi women. Car sales in Saudi Arabia are expected to grow by 15-20 percent annually according to LMC Automotive consultants. That growth would include all segments of the car market, not only the luxury and premium brands.
Within a week of the announcement automakers put out adverts congratulating Saudi women and welcoming them to the driving seat. Companies have long known how Saudi women have a great influence on the car-buying decision even before the royal decree was issued. From now on they will pay more attention to what these women need in a family car and give them equal attention. There is a huge potential for those companies to gain.
• Adel Murad is a senior motoring and business journalist, based in London.

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