Audi has doubled its growth in Saudi market in last 5 years

Audi has doubled its growth in Saudi market in last 5 years
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Audi has doubled its growth in Saudi market in last 5 years
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Audi has doubled its growth in Saudi market in last 5 years
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Updated 20 February 2016

Audi has doubled its growth in Saudi market in last 5 years

Audi has doubled its growth in Saudi market in last 5 years

LONDON: Audi is an expanding brand. It has exceeded 11,000 units sold in the region in 2015 and has grown regionally for the 10th successive year. Globally, the company sold 1.8 vehicles and achieved six years of continuous growth.

In an exclusive interview with Arab News, Enrico Atanasio, director of Audi Middle East, confirmed that in 2016 Audi will launch more than 20 new or updated models globally.
He pointed out that Saudi Arabia has its own office to focus on that market after sales have doubled in the last five years.
The first stand-alone Audi Sport showroom in the world will open later this year in Abu Dhabi.

These are highlights from the interview:

• How do you see changes in the regional markets this year in view of the decline in global oil prices?
Despite the decline in global oil prices, Audi has remained on track internationally and surpassed its threshold of 1.8 million deliveries (+3.6 percent).
Indeed, the company has had six years of uninterrupted growth, with 72 record-breaking months in succession.
During 2015, there were sales gains in over 30 markets worldwide and in the US, Audi is growing at twice the rate of the market, exceeding the 200,000 mark for the first time in our corporate history.
We have seen a balanced global sales trend in 2015 with growth drivers in all segments: in the compact segment with the A3 and TT, in the mid-size segment with the Q5, and in the full-size category with the Audi Q7.
SUV unit sales increased in 2015 again by an astonishing 6 percent to 538,000.
Here in the Middle East we have sustained our volumes in 2015 with over 11,000 sales.
We have recorded growth in this market for 10 successive years.
Globally, we have had a successful start for the A3 e-tron which is the best-selling compact premium electric car in Western Europe.
In terms of new models, the new Q7 and A4 have been launched successfully in Europe but have not been available in all regions of the world.
In the Middle East, we launched the Q7 in October 2015 and the A4 will only arrive at dealerships from March.
Audi will launch more than 20 new or updated models globally in 2016.

• How do you see the potential of the Saudi market and can you outline your efforts in that market?

The Saudi market is proof of this global success and now has an independent office to focus specifically on this market.
Saudi Arabia represents 44 percent of the entire Middle East Passenger car market and is constantly growing.
Indeed growth rates have been almost 100 percent over the last 5 years in Saudi Arabia for Audi.

• How did Audi perform in the region last year and what are the sales targets for this year?
For Audi Middle East (excluding KSA) we maintained our volumes for 2015 with sales of over 11,000
In recent market forecasts for 2016, there are mounting challenges and growing headwinds.
We remain optimistic for Audi, particularly in light of the very positive response to our new Q7 and A4 models where they have been launched.
Their global rollout in 2016 will provide important momentum.
In the Middle East, we are forecasting to sustain our volumes for 2016 despite challenging circumstances. The all-new Audi Q7 will have a full year of sales, having only recently arrived in 2015 and we will also introduce the all-new Audi A4 in the market from April onwards.

• What new Audi products should we expect in the region this year? Is there demand yet for hybrid, plug-in hybrid cars in the region?  And which is the best-selling model in the region- and in Saudi Arabia?
We have an exciting year planned for Audi Middle East with market introductions of the all-new Audi R8 and the all-new Audi A4.
Audi Sport is a key theme for 2016 and we are thrilled to make this a real focus for our customers in our showrooms.
In November 2016, we will present the first stand-alone Audi Sport Showroom in the world in Abu Dhabi.
Other new models expected in the Middle East include the RS6 Performance , the RS7 Performance, the RS Q3 performance and the S8 plus.
Our best-selling model in the region is the Q7 with almost 20 percent of our total volume.
In Saudi Arabia, the most popular Audi is the A8 L representing 33 percent of the sales there.
For 2016, we expect our all-new Q7 shall be equally popular vehicle along with A8L.
Regarding hybrid cars, we are definitely seeing a growing interest in these vehicles and we are watching this.
Audi has great success globally with the e-tron range, but at this moment in time there is no immediate plan to bring this range of cars to the Middle East.

• How different do you find the Middle East markets to other markets you have worked in?
My first challenge was to understand the geography of the region.
Every country in the Middle East has its own culture and diversities.
Even here at AVME we have employees from 27 different countries in one office.
So, one of my main challenges is to understand and integrate all of those cultural needs into our future strategy, not just within AVME but also at our dealerships and most importantly for our customers.

• What changes regional governments can undertake to encourage lower fuel consumption and perhaps alternative energy?
Audi is investing billions in its electrification strategy.
The A3 e-tron and Q7 e-tron models have already become successfully established in many markets and the all-electric SUV, which will launch in 2018, represents a milestone of our broad-based strategy.
It will allow us to consistently electrify additional model lines.
It remains to be seen however, if we will see these models in the Middle East.

• What are the preferred options in Audi cars requested by regional consumers?

If you look at the values of Audi, there are three core values for the brand: Firstly sportiness, we are a sporty brand and our race victories at Le Mans and in the DTM demonstrate that.
The second value is sophistication and the premium quality you can find in an Audi.
If you look at the stitching of an Audi A8 for instance, you see the dedication and commitment made by our engineers and designers to detail and to make the best cars in the market.
The third value is progressiveness. And I think this is probably the most important one of the three in our customer’s eyes. The slogan of our brand is ‘Vorsprung durch Technik’ and there is no other brand as avant-garde as Audi due to our technology and also our progressiveness.
If you look at our customer profile they look for sportiness in a premium brand, they demand sophistication of course, but what they really like in Audi is the progressiveness. In this region, our customers also demand exclusivity and individuality. Indeed we are one of the top five regions in the world for the amount of exclusive features requested on our cars.
These features range from exclusive paint colors, bespoke interior stitching and premium sound systems.

• Will the dealership network expand any further in 2016 and if so in which countries?
We are present with service and sales facilities in all of the countries we’re responsible for in the region.
We are a growing brand, so we need to increase our service capacity and we are currently developing extended service facilities in Kuwait, Dubai, Lebanon and Doha.
As our model range is growing, we also need to increase our capacity of both sales and pre-owned car showrooms.
In January, we opened a new terminal in Abu Dhabi and this will be accompanied by the first stand-alone Audi Sport showroom in the world later this year.


REVIEW: Heritage, power and urban sophistication — Aston Martin DBX

British car maker Aston Martin has made an SUV that will appeal to Mr. and Mrs. Bond, says Arab News reviewer Frank Kane. (Aston Martin)
British car maker Aston Martin has made an SUV that will appeal to Mr. and Mrs. Bond, says Arab News reviewer Frank Kane. (Aston Martin)
Updated 01 May 2021

REVIEW: Heritage, power and urban sophistication — Aston Martin DBX

British car maker Aston Martin has made an SUV that will appeal to Mr. and Mrs. Bond, says Arab News reviewer Frank Kane. (Aston Martin)
  • The British car maker has made an SUV that will appeal to Mr. and Mrs. Bond

DUBAI: I was privileged to get a glimpse of the Aston Martin DBX a few years back at the carmaker’s main production plant in Warwickshire in the UK when it was just in the concept stage, and it looked a knock-out then.

A super SUV from the maker of the vehicle of choice of James Bond, the legendary British spy? Who would say no to that idea? Certainly not elite car aficionados in the Middle East, that’s for sure, and I recall telling Aston executives back then that they should get the car to the Gulf as quick as possible, because it was sure to be a winner.

A lot has happened at Aston since then, but it is reassuring to know that the company has lived up to the promise of the super SUV, which can now be seen and bought in the cities of the Gulf. It’s also reassuring to know that my judgement back then has been proved correct — the DBX is a real show-stopper.

Aston has come under new management over the past year, to help it through another bout of financial pressure brought on by a combination of Brexit, stock market woes, and the shock of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But it has not let those problems distract it from the main job — designing, manufacturing and selling top-class vehicles that have a distinctive British flavor, as well as an edge of excitement and — even — danger that other elite marks do not possess. The Bond heritage.

But how to combine that with the comfort, accessibility and adaptability of an SUV? Other super-car manufacturers have tried it, with varying degrees of success, but I think the DBX has produced an all-terrain vehicle that retains the pizzazz and glamour of its sports car stablemates better than most.

In the DBX, you could imagine Mrs Bond dropping the kids at school and doing a supermarket shop before handing the keys back to James for a spot of clandestine espionage. Mr Bond would be pleased to have the chance to drive it, I’d guarantee.

The one that I was lucky enough to test in Dubai was a real head-turner. My favorite hotel valet man at one of Dubai’s glitzy five-star hotels — who knows a thing or two about elite cars, having parked all of them — took a sharp intake of breath at the matt Xenon grey body paint that made the DBX look quite sinister, but also very muscular and powerful.

The wheels are big, even by SUV standards and would be sure to get you to the crest of even the most demanding sand dune, if that was your aim, or just to add to the road-holding qualities the DBX has even at high speeds and sharp corners.

A 4.0 litre V8 turbocharged engine — from Aston’s German partner Mercedes — speeds you from 0 to 100km in 4.5 seconds and deliver a top speed of just under 300kph. Mrs Bond will be fine with that. James might want just a little a bit more but that’s a minor quibble — and in any case he could flick it into Sport+ mode when in hot pursuit of a villain.

Aston’s sound system — encased in leather like the rest of the interior — belts out the decibels through 14 strategically placed speakers that allow you to hear the music even above the distinctive deep-throated growl of the engine.

It is an SUV for sure, with plenty of space and comfort in the back and a boot that will carry everything you’ll want, including the dog. (One option is a pet-package that includes a washing facility for muddy post-walk paws, which would be equally useful for sandy feet.)

One thing I really liked was a huge sliding roof that pulled back to give you a skyline view and instantly made the interior look even more spacious. Great for night-time cruising in the high-rise cities of the Middle East.

The DBX starts at AED837,000 ($228,000), but extras — courtesy of Aston’s Q department — will probably make it a near AED1 million investment. That’s well worth it for a car that combines heritage, power and urban sophistication in one very head-turning package.


REVIEW: Eternally aerodynamic – the Porsche 911 Turbo S

REVIEW: Eternally aerodynamic – the Porsche 911 Turbo S
Updated 19 March 2021

REVIEW: Eternally aerodynamic – the Porsche 911 Turbo S

REVIEW: Eternally aerodynamic – the Porsche 911 Turbo S
  • The German master car maker has produced a roaring tiger of a sports car, with technology to match

The Germans have a phrase for it: “Gibt es keinen Ersatz - there is no substitute”. And when it comes to the 2021 Porsche Turbo S, you just have to agree.

I do like German cars. The engineering and technology is always guaranteed to be top notch, good performance is taken for granted, and - personal view this - the styling and design says quality, efficiency and precision.

On the 911 Turbo S, you can add in mind-boggling speed. It is the fastest ever in the long line of iconic 911 sports cars, with neck-breaking acceleration of 0-100km in just 2.7 seconds. With a comparatively modest 3.8 liters of engine, that is considerably faster than many other super sports cars that have significantly bigger capacity.

The technology is best in class. You want front and rear spoilers at the push of a button? You got it. You want to avoid crunching the speed bumps by lifting the front of the car on approach? Flick of a switch. You want automatic door opening via a built-in finger print reader on the handle? That’s there too.

But it is behind the wheel that the Turbo S really impresses. You just somehow feel that is always has so much in reserve that there is no tricky road situation that could throw you. Instant acceleration - thanks to the powerful turbos - could get you out of any tough spot, and four-wheel drive and state-of-the-art braking ensures you can handle the car with assurance in even the most extreme of conditions.

One quirky detail that shows the attention to fine detail: to keep the front low on the road even in high-speed conditions, the rear wheels are slightly bigger than the front. Fiendishly clever, but simple dynamics.

Different driving modes - controlled by a switch on the steering wheel - take you from “normal” to “supersport” in the blink of an eye, and turn you into a Nurburgring legend at the flick of a switch.

In an era when cars are increasingly being promoted on the levels of silence from their engines, it is gratifying that Porsche has decided against all that new-age messaging.

In “normal”, the 640bhp engine is a growling lion, but slip it into “supersport” and it becomes a roaring tiger, ready to beat anything else on the road. It is a thrilling drive, even in a country where you cannot hope to get near its top speed of 330kmh - as, of course, you can still do in theory on many parts of the Germany autobahn network.

I especially liked the driving cockpit. Easy to get in and out for such a low-slung vehicle, it has everything you need and more in a hi-tech environment that oozes efficiency and functionality. There is no flash gimmickry, just 100 per cent precision.

The Bose surround-sound audio system would allow you to enjoy a Beethoven piano sonata even at top engine revs.

Although there is space for two fairly petite passengers in the back, this is obviously not a family car. The front luggage compartment will take a couple of weekend bags, but that’s about it.

Some people say that Porsche lacks imagination when it comes to body design, that one model looks pretty much like any other, regardless of price or specification. Why pay all that extra money for the Turbo S - around AED750,000 in the UAE - when it looks like any other 911?

I didn’t see it that way. The shape and design of the 911 is the iconic symbol of one of the greatest German car makers, and has been refined and fine-tuned over the decades without ever looking dated, just eternally aero-dynamic.

There is no substitute for class, quality and heritage, and the 911 Turbo S has those aplenty.


REVIEW: Super-sport meets SUV — The Lamborghini Urus

Arab News' resident car reviewer Frank Kane tested the Lamborghini Urus on the streets of Dubai. (Shutterstock/File Photo)
Arab News' resident car reviewer Frank Kane tested the Lamborghini Urus on the streets of Dubai. (Shutterstock/File Photo)
Updated 24 February 2021

REVIEW: Super-sport meets SUV — The Lamborghini Urus

Arab News' resident car reviewer Frank Kane tested the Lamborghini Urus on the streets of Dubai. (Shutterstock/File Photo)
  • The Italian manufacturer has made a car equally at home on the school run or the racing circuit

DUBAI: It’s confession time: I’ve always been a bit scared of Lamborghini.

The flashy super-sports cars in shocking colors that you see on Dubai streets and on the forecourts of five-star hotels look so downright aggressive and fast that I’ve always had a sneaky feeling that a man of my advancing years would look slightly ridiculous getting in and out of a Huracan or Aventador.

But the lure of the magical Lambo name was too much, and when the opportunity arose I was excited to step into the rather more sedate Urus, Lamborghini’s move into the super-SUV segment.

 

This section of the luxury car market is smoking hot at the moment, especially in the Middle East, which just loves its SUVs. Rolls Royce, Bentley, Porsche, and Maserati have all produced fantastic multi-terrain vehicles recently, and even Ferrari is working on its own thoroughbred.

But the Urus is the sportiest and sexist of the elite SUVs so far and Lamborghini says it is the most powerful. Gulf drivers have taken to it with relish, judging by the numbers on the roads, many of which are being driven by Arab women. Interesting phenomenon.

FASTFACT

Urus

The name of a type of bull, similar to Spanish fighting bulls, maintaining Lamborghini’s link with the powerful animal.

I said “sedate,” but that is not really the appropriate term for a vehicle that will get you from 0-100kph in 3.6 seconds with a top speed of just over 300kph. This is all thanks to a four-liter V-8 twin-turbo engine that gets all that power to a 4WD system the techies say is among the most advanced around at the moment.

If you want to emulate the archetypal Lambo-head by popping and cracking the engine at the signal, you can do that, but during normal driving the engine thunders rather than screams. You can hear yourself think and have a decent conversation in the cockpit, though you may have to shout for the benefit of rear-seat passengers — not a problem Lamborghini encounters in its sports cars, of course.

I had been told to expect superior road handling, and was not disappointed. This is a two-ton car that can take the kids to school in style and safety, or do some dune-bashing at the weekend, but the way it hurls itself out of sharp corners, or sticks flat to the road on hairpin bends, is a marvel to behold.

A lot of that is down to the ultra-sophisticated four-wheel steering that has the effect of elongating and shortening the wheelbase depending on speed and road orientation.

With such handling, it really is hard to believe you’re driving an SUV.

FASTFACT

Tractors

The original Mr Lamborghini also produced farm machines, and you can still buy a Lambo tractor — although that company no longer has anything to do with the sports-car manufacturer.

The interior screams “Italia,” and not just because of the driving modes — including Strada, Corsa, and Terra — that are flagged up on the center console. The others are Sport, and — a nice touch for the Middle East — Sabba (sand). I doubt the Neve (snow) mode will get much use in the region.

And of course you can personalize your own driving experience, in the Ego mode — again, how very Italian.

The cockpit technology is extremely sophisticated, with everything you’d expect from an Italian manufacturer now owned by a German company, VW. A lot of the hi-tech features seem heavily influenced by Audi, which is a good thing of course. Vorsprung Durch Technik, after all.

Lamborghini took a long time to design and unveil the Urus, perhaps while pondering whether it was really possible to mix a super-sports car with an SUV. But it has done it. At times you have to remind yourself that this is a multi-terrain vehicle, rather than something you want to throw around the F1 track on Yas Island.

The 2021 version will cost you around $272,257 for starters, but options can raise that significantly. To get the super-sport SUV of your dreams, you’d better start $354,000 and be prepared to go higher.

The car I drove was in a reassuringly traditional shade of British racing green, but now that I’ve overcome my Lambo-phobia with the Urus, look out for me on the roads of Dubai in a bright lime-and-day-glo-orange Huracan.


Egypt collector accumulated over 100 vintage cars

Egypt collector accumulated over 100 vintage cars
Updated 28 October 2020

Egypt collector accumulated over 100 vintage cars

Egypt collector accumulated over 100 vintage cars
  • Among the famous figures who once rode one of Sima’s cars was former Egyptian president Anwar El-Sadat
  • Sima’s oldest car is an Auburn which he acquired in the 1980s

CAIRO: Sayed Sima says he was around 25 years old when he began collecting vintage cars, attracted by their beauty and rarity. They were also relatively cheap.
More than half a century later Sima, a nickname derived from the Egyptian slang for cinema, says he now owns hundreds of vintage cars, some of which he keeps in Egypt’s Media Production City where directors often rent the antiques for shows and films.


Sima’s oldest car is an Auburn which he acquired in the 1980s.
“This is of course a very rare car, a car that is entirely a piece of antique,” he said, while sitting in the Auburn showcasing its wooden frame and steel coating.
“Its original tank is still inside. It’s a beautiful car. Its structure is all wood.”
Sima remains fascinated by the way older cars operate.
His 38-year-old son, Ayman, shares this peculiar passion. He grew up seeing his father’s cars in movies.


“I also liked how I saw these cars on movie screens. I would see a movie and think, oh it is our car,” he said.
Among the famous figures who once rode one of Sima’s cars was former Egyptian president Anwar El Sadat, whose presidential car was a black 1975 Chevrolet Impala, said Sima.


Elegance with a hint of jet fighter: The McLaren 2020 GT

Elegance with a hint of jet fighter: The McLaren 2020 GT
Updated 04 October 2020

Elegance with a hint of jet fighter: The McLaren 2020 GT

Elegance with a hint of jet fighter: The McLaren 2020 GT
  • ‘It has the threat and power of a shark’
  • Buying a McLaren GT from the showroom will set you back at least $210,000

DUBAI: I like the idea of Grand Tourers — GTs as they are known in the motor business. At their best, they combine the exhilaration of sports car driving with just a little bit more room and comfort, for when you are making the “grand tour” they are designed for.
It is a segment of the luxury car market that British carmaker McLaren eyed warily for a while. Perhaps more than any other super-sports carmaker, McLaren has stuck to its racing car roots. Would a GT not be a betrayal of that long and valued heritage?
But last year, McLaren took the leap into the GT space and has come up with a little gem of a vehicle.
The 2020 version I drove — courtesy of the accommodating people in its Dubai headquarters — was GT enough to make you contemplate a drive through the Rub Al-Khali Empty Quarter, but sporty enough to raise eyebrows on Jumeirah Beach Road.
It looks exquisite. McLaren designers seem to have sat down and picked out all the sexiest, sleekest features from all other supercars and blended them perfectly in the GT — then added some more just as a bonus.
Looking at it head-on from the front, it has the threat and power of a shark. The body is all flowing lines and elegant contours. The rear has just a hint of jet fighter about it.
With a carbon fiber and aluminum body, it is lighter than any in its class, which accounts for the neck-breaking power you get out of its 4-liter V8 engine. You can hit 200 km in nine seconds from standing, and if you put your foot to the floor you will reach 326 km per hour.


For connoisseurs of engine noise, the sound on acceleration is raw and powerful, but not overpowering enough to make you concerned for your hearing. McLaren has stuffed plenty of advance insulation into the car. From outside, there is a gratifying boy-racer power crack, if revving up at the lights is your kind of thing.
A reworked suspension system, combined with McLaren’s hydraulic steering, means you retain the racing car feel but without the bumpy ride some sports cars give you.
It is low on the ground. In fact, you would have to practice entry and exit in private in order to do it with any grace in public. But the butterfly doors give you plenty of access room at least.
So how would I feel embarking on a long drive in the McLaren GT? Well, I would be confident that I would have a reasonable amount of luggage for one thing. The rear opens up to show enough space for two golf bags, and the front boot also has plenty of room for a weekend for two.
Only one small word of dissent here. My wife complained that there was nowhere to put her stuff. “This is a real boy’s car isn’t it — golf clubs but no room for a handbag,” she said.
In fact, I could see women being especially delighted to own and drive the McLaren GT. It is less macho and more intimate than other GTs, and is definitely a car to be seen in. 
The two-seat cabin is well designed and, again, intimate, with a stack of hi-tech features. A British audio system is a novelty these days, but sounded great.
Buying a McLaren GT from the showroom will set you back at least $210,000, depending on the color you choose and the level of interior decor. The one I drove was in a seductive amaranth red, and had plenty of leather and chrome inside.
I loved driving it through the canyons of Sheikh Zayed Road. Next time, the Empty Quarter.