By Francesca Astorri
When it comes to cars, customers in Qatar are getting more demanding, more fussy and more extreme
When W motors announced that its first hypercar would cost $3.4m, more than a few eyebrows were raised as to who might spend that amount of money on a car brand that no-one had ever heard of. The next question is also pretty obvious. How can this unknown brand compete with well-established companies like Ferrari, for example, that has nearly a century of experience in branding and engineering?
W Motors CEO Richard Debbas is quick to answer. “My customers already have a Ferrari. Actually, they already have a Bentley and a Lamborghini as well. They want something more exclusive,” he says.
Debbas has received over a hundred requests for his company’s $3.4m Lykan Hypersport 2013. But he’s only planning to produce seven cars. It’s clear that this particular venture is not about revenues and customers — it’s more about collectors.
“We’d like the first few cars to go to Arabs even if we receive requests from Russia, China and the US,” says Debbas.
Once the customer (note, not the car) is selected, he or she gets the chance to personalise as much of their new toy as they like. Diamonds, pearls, emeralds, rubies are just some of the precious stones they can decide to add all over the car, like encrusting them in the headlights, for example. When dealing with the super-wealthy, the headlights have to match the outfit of the person behind the wheel — naturally.
If a female customer approached a car dealership and asked whether the vehicle could be made to match her python skin handbag, most dealers would see that as a problem. Debbas, however, sees it as an opportunity. The car business in Qatar is booming, and it’s all about exclusivity. Well, exclusivity, and the seven-figure cheque that goes with it.
“The exclusivity of the car makes a hypercar immortal. It never dies, supercars instead get updated,” says Debbas.
But what does the owner of a Lykan Hypersport actually get for their millions? The car produces 750 horsepower from a twin-turbocharged six-cylinder engine. W Motors says its top speed is 394 kph.
Supercar manufacturers generally produce around 25 units of each car, making it a very rare product indeed. While it’s not unique, just few units more makes the price of the car drop drastically. Next up for W Motors is another new supercar, which will be launched in November. This time, the price is a relatively snip at $1.9m — about half the price of the Lykan Hypersport 2013.
There was yet another level of exclusivity at last month’s Qatar Motor Show, with Bertone launching its Nuccio, a prototype designed to celebrate the Turin-based manufacturer’s 100-year anniversary. As the car is a complete one-off, the competition to buy it is likely to be pretty stiff.
Daniele Cornil, the communications director at Bertone, has three words to describe the car: “beautiful, aggressive and sexy”. It will go on the market for over $2m and the waiting list is already lengthening.
So how does the firm decide who gets to drive the car home — is it just a case of the highest bidder? In this case, customers will be 'selected' and the last word on the award goes to Lilli Bertone, company’s president. “Qatar is a market with extreme demands and we are ready for that,” says Sandro Colella, managing director at Bertone.
Colella isn’t wrong — everything about the Qatar automotive sector is looking extreme at the moment. Porsche sold over 1,000 vehicles last year with a 95 percent increase on sales in comparison to 2011. And that wasn’t the best performance around the Doha Exhibition Centre. Ford and Lincoln in Qatar grew by more than 107 percent over the same period. In addition, the Middle East positioned itself as the fourth most important market for Lamborghini during 2012, after the US, China and the UK.
Qatar Motor Show has a positive impact on brands, not just on sales, according to Maserati’s Middle East manager, Florian Alexander Mack, and wherever you turn in the Doha Exhibition Centre during the Motor Show you see the car business booming. Maserati sales in Qatar increased by 30 percent last year, registering one of the best performances of Alfardan Sport Motors’ products, which all went up between eight and 30 percent, making the firm’s general manager, Mohamed Kandeel, a happy man.
Certainly, 2012 seems to have been a successful year for car sales all over the Middle East, not just Qatar. Volkswagen Middle East said that last year was its best ever in terms of regional sales, with a 22 percent increase on 2011.
In all, 13,000 vehicles were delivered to customers across twelve Middle East markets. Lamborghini also saw an eight percent increase in 2012 sales in the region, with the UAE leading the growth, followed by Saudi Arabia and then Qatar. Bentley experienced similar success, experiencing a 44 percent increase in the Middle Eastern market in 2012 compared to the previous year.
Over 150,000 people visited the Qatar Motor Show this year coming from all over the region. If they have one thing in common, it’s not just the need for a new car — but one that is tailor-made to their own desires.
Some of the world cannot scrape two meals a day and yet obscene amounts of money is lavished on personalising cars,unbelievable.