Car makers see GCC sales accelerate

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The BMW M6 Gran Coupe (AFP/Getty Images - for illustrative purposes)

The BMW M6 Gran Coupe (AFP/Getty Images - for illustrative purposes)

Car makers saw a surge in GCC sales last year, adding weight to the region’s economic revival.

Automotive firms reported significant gains in regional sales over the last 12-months, driven by a surge in oil prices and government spending.

“The auto market did extremely well last year; I don’t think we expected it to do as well to that extent," said Pierluigi Bellini, associate director for MEA at consultants IHS Automotive.

“The reason [for the rise] was the oil price. The average for 2012 was just slightly higher than 2011, which was already high… so it was a windfall for oil revenues for countries," he added

“Then oil revenues enter into the coffers of the governments to be spent. Government spending has been very strong and the budgets for 2013 are very high,” Bellini said. “These are the main drivers; it’s trickling down to the whole economy.”

The six GCC states, which together supply about a fifth of the world’s oil, posted a surplus of around US$350bn last year, according to International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimates, and spent record amounts on welfare and job creation to preserve social peace following the Arab Spring.

The buoyant economic environment helped push up car sales across the region. An estimated 1.4m light vehicles were sold in the GCC in 2012, according to IHS Automotive data.

German car maker Audi saw a 16 percent increase in sales in the Middle East in 2012 with the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait accounting for the vast majority of the 9,155 units sold.  Swedish car giant Volvo said its Kuwait, Qatar and UAE sales increased 73 percent, 48 percent and 15 percent, respectively, driven by the availability of its XC and S models.

BMW Group delivered more than 20,000 vehicles to Middle East customers in 2012, making it the most successful year for the German car maker in the region, the firm said earlier in the month.

“These remarkable results clearly demonstrate the continued growth of the region’s economies,” said Dr Joerg Breuer, managing director, BMW Group Middle East. “It is also the first time that we have crossed the 20,000 unit mark.”

A predicted slowdown in economic growth could see vehicle sales slow for 2013. GCC growth is expected to slow from 5.5 percent in 2012 to 3.73 percent in 2013 as the region’s three-year surge in regional oil production slows, according to the IMF.

“We are projecting a slowdown in economic growth and also some decline in oil prices for the whole year but I still think the market will do well, just maybe not the same growth as we saw in 2012,” said Bellini.

“I think it’s going to be in the high single digits,” he added.

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