Bentley to pour $9m into Middle East upgrade

UK brand hopes to capitalise on soaring auto sales as carmakers report record GCC sales
Bentley to pour $9m into Middle East upgrade
Bentley plans to launch two workshops and overhaul its showrooms in the GCC
By Shane McGinley
Thu 26 Jan 2012 04:35 PM

Bentley Motors, the luxury UK car maker, plans to invest up to $9m in the next six months on its Middle East operations in a bid to capitalise on the region’s soaring car sales.

The Volkswagen-owned brand sold 7,000 cars in the region in 2011, bucking the slowdown in car demand seen in larger markets such as the US and Europe.

“It not the biggest market in the world, but it has been very consistent,” said Chris Buxton, regional director for the Middle East, Africa & India. “Bigger markets like the US and Europe have dipped, but here it was very consistent.”

The car maker saw three percent growth in the region during 2011, brushing off the impact of the Arab Spring revolutions.

“There is a lot of investment going on here,” Buxton said in an interview at the Qatar Motor Show. “Over the next four or five months it is probably five or six million pounds ($9.3m) worth of investment.”

[In pics: luxury cars wow crowds at Qatar Motor Show]

The global car industry was hit hard by the 2008-2009 global financial crisis and recovered only partially last year. But the Gulf has proved a growing market for luxury car sales, with a slew of brands racking up record figures over the last 12 months.

Rolls Royce named the UAE and Saudi Arabia as its fourth and fifth biggest markets worldwide in December, after seeing a 23 percent rise in vehicle sales in 2011. German car maker Audi also reported 26.8 percent regional growth, after selling 7,865 cars in the region last year.

Volkswagen, in which Qatar’s wealth firm holds a 17 percent stake in, saw car sales across the region increase by 21 percent last year, compared to a global average of 13 percent.

In the UAE, the Gulf’s largest luxury car market, high-end cars account for some nine percent of the country’s auto sales.

Buxton said Bentley planned to capitalise on rising demand with the launch of the brand’s largest workshop worldwide in Dubai. New showrooms are also planned for Abu Dhabi and Jeddah.

The brand is forecasting “double-digit growth” over the next 12 months, he added.

Luxury Italian carmaker Lamborghini said it has a two-year waiting list in the Middle East for its newest models.

“The Middle East grew from 2010 to 2011 by more than 80 percent. It has a higher penetration that the average,” said Stephan Winkelmann, president and CEO of Automobili Lamborghini.

“We will grow at least another 50 percent this year. We are sold out with our Aventador production and this is creating a bottleneck for all the market.”

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