I can never forget
their staunch moral support throughout those tense times. They were under
enormous pressure, but not once did they consider bending to it; they even used
to forward copies of those letters of recommendation, so that we knew exactly
who was sending them. As relieved as I was to receive Mitsubishi’s support,
there was still a major hurdle to overcome.
agency had to be registered with the Ministry of Economy and Commerce.
Ours remained in the
pending tray of the Undersecretary, who, as we came to understand, favoured other
interested parties. After a lengthy and unusual wait, I called the
Undersecretary to ask him to expedite registration, but it soon became clear
that under his watch, that wasn’t going to happen. He and whoever was pulling
his strings clearly believed Mitsubishi would eventually get fed up with the delay
and dump me.
However, when I
discussed the matter with my Japanese partners, they said, don’t worry, we’re
with you. We’re prepared to be patient for as long as it takes. They knew that
we were a young, energetic and enthusiastic team and saw how successful we had
been in construction and in our other business ventures. We were in frequent
communication and were always transparent with one another, which laid a solid
foundation of trust.
When Sheikh Rashid
formed a new cabinet, he appointed Saif Al Jarwan as the new Minister of
Economy and Commerce. I think that Mr Al Jarwan already knew about the underhand
attempts to cut me out of that contract. As soon as he moved to the Ministry,
and without any prompting from me or my people, he instructed that my
distributorship should be registered forthwith.
Nobody asked him to
do that. He did it because he was a man of principle who wasn’t about to give
envious bigwigs free rein to steal bread from the mouths of their fellow
That rocky start to
our relationship with Mitsubishi in fact cemented our business relationship.
They looked upon us more like partners than just another one of their
distributors. I was happy to give them every support. When we took over the
Mitsubishi agency, the climate was just right. Japanese cars were relatively
inexpensive, but had acquired a reputation for quality and reliability – and
importantly for the UAE, they came with good air conditioning systems that
didn’t overheat on a hot summer’s day like some of their American and European
In earlier decades,
Emiratis and some expats believed bigger was better when choosing an
automobile, which was why American ‘full size’ brands with their plush
interiors, cruise control and comfortable suspension were popular. But as
petrol prices soared worldwide and parking spaces were at a premium, car manufsacturers
began downsizing according to the demands of the market. Those problems weren’t
yet noticeable in the Emirates, but smaller, more compact cars were viewed as
more trendy and more fashionable than the American dance halls on wheels.
realising that big might be beautiful but was no longer practical, which
provided a perfect window for Japanese makers. In the UAE, Mercedes and BMWs
remained popular choices for men and women, but more and more families were
looking for more economic second and third cars for their children while
companies began buying utilitarian Japanese cars for their employees. In later
years, of course, Japanese manufacturers successfully targeted the luxury car
With the Mitsubishi
franchise, Al Habtoor Motors was born. In the years that followed, we added
Bentley, Rolls Royce and Aston Martin to our stable and enjoyed a long and
fruitful partnership with the manufacturers of the latter two, until we
amicably parted ways some time ago. More recently, the Turkish coach and truck
manufacturers Temsa, McLaren sports cars; and the crème de la crème of
luxurious, high-speed cars, Bugatti were great additions to our
In 2009, the company
emerged as the number one Dealer of Bentley Motors Worldwide for the year 2008,
which was an amazing achievement for my brother, Sultan, and my son, Ahmad, who
take care of the motoring arm of my group.