Irfan Tansel, CEO of Al Masaood Automobiles, talks about the changing nature of the automobile sector in the region
Did you witness sales growth during Ramadan?
We did, yes. Car sales surged in Ramadan compared to the preceding months – approximately 40 percent over the whole month. While that bodes well for the year, it will not compensate for the downward trend of the past few years.
Despite plenty of promotions from car dealers, the market hasn’t picked up any momentum, which has not been helped by additional legislation imposed by banks on extending finance facilities to buyers.
Have the buying habits of customers changed recently?
They are in a state of flux. We’re in an age of shifting preferences as fossil fuels diminish and millennials become more aware of environmental affairs and transportation efficiency.
As a result, dealers are focusing on integrating intelligent mobility solutions and transforming them into fully electric vehicles, not only to win customers but to answer to new sustainable government initiatives.
Also, the car industry is no longer immune to external disruptions taking place elsewhere – while many are still drawn to the traditional model of buying a car, others are interested in payment models that provide access to mobility without having to own something.
How is the pre-owned market performing?
The pre-owned market isn’t as uniform because used cars are sold through both authorised and non-authorised agents. The market in the UAE was, for the longest time, a new car market due to high disposable incomes, but times have changed and consumers are now more cautious in their purchases.
Al Masaood recently launched a certified pre-owned programme and we have seen a steady growth in sales. It offers an array of extras such as extended warranty and free insurance.
What are the major challenges being faced by the automotive industry in the UAE?
Starting in 2016, the car industry in the UAE – and the GCC as a whole – has been experiencing a downturn. Fluctuations in oil prices, the instability caused by regional conflicts and increases in the cost of living have curbed customer sentiments in the new and pre-owned sales market. The introduction of the VAT held customers further back for a stint of time, too.
How have you survived during such an environment?
Firstly, our brands – Nissan, Renault and Infiniti – enable us to cater to a wide array of segments with different needs, whether families, adventurers or luxury seekers.
We also offer fleet solutions for SMEs and corporations. Secondly, we pride ourselves in excellent after-sales services and, thirdly, we never cut back on investment in human capital, technology and research; the key is to focus on sustainable, long-term solutions.