The UAE, the Gulf’s largest market for luxury sales, has seen bespoke services continue to soar as wealthy petrolheads look to ensure their cars to stand out from the crowd.
“Our customers here are a bit more discerning; they want to have something that is different. Having a car that stands out is something that is looked for a lot more in this region,” James Crichton, regional director MEA at Rolls-Royce, told Arabian Business.
“In your typical European or Asian markets, a black or silver car is about as exciting as it gets but here customers want to have something that stands out…they want to have something that is different to the car that their neighbour, friend of colleague has,” he added.
The UAE was hit hard by the global financial crisis but last year’s political unrest across the Arab world boosted car sales across the Gulf state. Total car sales are expected to increase 32 percent to 25,010 this year after a16 percent rise in 2010, according to consultants IHS Automotive.
The Middle East is Rolls-Royce’s biggest market globally for bespoke cars, said Crichton.
“Bespoke is something we have been doing for a very long time… it really has been a key element [of the business] and more specifically for the Middle East.”
The 107-year old company sold 23 percent more cars in the Middle East last year compared to the same period the previous year, the firm said Jan 9. In 2011, the company’s Middle East arm exported its most expensive car to the region, valued at $1m due to its “high bespoke” design.
Rolls-Royce bespoke starts at $15-20,000 for customised paintwork and can go up to $100,000 for more intricate designs, said Crichton.
“Abu Dhabi last year created a car that has a semi-precious stone built into the veneer – it was the same stone used for prayer beads,” he said.
“Our dealer in Dubai created another car around horse racing called Thoroughbred, where the inlay in the veneer included the silk shirts of the 35 jockeys that raced in the Glorious Goodwood race in 2011,” he added.
Dubai-based Al Ghandi Motors, regional dealers of GMC and Chevrolet cars, spent $68,000 hand-painting falcons on the sides of a Chevrolet Silverado 3500 HD, customising its interior with new leather and suede upholstery, raising its suspension by seven inches and upgrading the electrical system for the MBC Action Battle of the Garages competition, which it won in September.
“We’ve been asked two more almost identical vehicles since with different paintwork,” said James Liddle, director of after sales at Al Ghandi Motors.
“We’ve done custom vehicles and had two or three of them exported to Sudan. On Kamal’s, which is a good selling car, we’ve done two wide body kits and increased the break horsepower on them to 570, which is approximately AED70-75,000.”
But it’s not just luxury buyers that are seeing a rise in bespoke sales. Buyers are also snapping up cheaper bodykits in a bid to personalize their cars, according to Dubai-based Performance Garage.
“Lots of customers choose to change the body style which might involve changing the bumper style, spoilers and sometimes the full body kit with alloy wheels,” said general manager, Jaics Joseph.
The garage customises up to seven cars a month with prices starting from AED6,000.
“People are still spending – a lot of people are going for it,” said Joseph.