They’re not allowed to drive but Saudi Arabian women buy more of the exclusive sports car Maserati than female drivers from other countries, the Italian brand claims.
About one-quarter of Maseratis sold in the Islamic country are owned by women, global overseas markets managing director Umberto Cini told Arabian Business.
At the same time, half of all Maseratis sold in neighbouring oil-rich Kuwait also are bought by women.
“Maserati has a very big share of female owners. Within that, the Middle East is among the highest and you would be surprised that we have also the highest share of female customers in the Middle East, which is in Kuwait,” Cini said.
“In Kuwait around 50 percent [of Maserati customers are female]. Twenty-five percent of the customers in Saudi Arabia are female customers, which is unheard of. If you didn’t know, you would never think about this.
“All the users are chauffer-driven, or they take it abroad or they use it in compounds.”
So what is it that attracts women to the 100-year-old brand, which sells only 6,000 units per year? According to Cini, it comes down to the sound and hormones.
“A study done two years ago in the UK proved that the sound of a Maserati car stimulates some hormones that are more present in women than men and this is one of the reasons why the Maserati car, and especially the sound of the Maserati car, is the favourite by ladies,” Cini said.
He said that in general Kuwaiti women “loved” sports cars and the proportion of female sports car drivers was higher there than the rest of the world.
“It’s not only the sound, of course. It’s the positioning of the car [that makes the Maserati popular] and the possibility of [having it] tailor-made,” Cini said.
“I had a customer in a [Middle East] country once that came with a Channel bag and told me I want a car like this.
“So this possibility of custom-made, of exclusivity, of being really an exclusive, elegant, stylish car are definitely all elements that are appreciated by female customers.”
While there is no written law that specifically bans women from driving in Saudi Arabia, senior government clerics have issued several religious edicts that prohibit women from driving.
However, earlier this month the Shoura Council approved an amendment allowing women to operate buggies and bicycles in public, as long as they were accompanied by a male relative.
Prince Alwaleed recently voiced his support for women to be allowed to drive in the country.
"The question of allowing women to drive in Saudi Arabia will save more than 500,000 jobs in addition to the social and economic benefits," he tweeted on April 14.
Maserati says women and the Middle East in general will be a key driver of its expansion plan.
It is aiming to increase the number of cars it sells globally each year from 6,200 last year to 50,000 by 2015.
Sales in the Middle East grew 37 percent last year to 417 vehicles compared to 304 in 2011, representing the companies the largest growth.
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