Will China 'drive' UAE's automobile market? BAIC vehicles en route to the Emirates
China’s carmakers are finally ready to present their credentials in the UAE’s overly competitive marketplace. And local dealerships are out to help them make the case.
Gargash Motors has entered an arrangement with BAIC, rated among the top five Chinese automakers and the first time it is venturing outside of its domestic market. (In China, BAIC makes cars based on technology transfer from Saab, the Swedish brand earlier owned by General Motors. It also builds Mercedes and Hyundai branded models for the Chinese market.)
Two BAIC models will initially be sold in the UAE through the Gargash Motors alliance. The C70 sedan bears a canny resemblance to Saab’s 9-5, while the E150’s touchstone is the Mercedes B-Class. “These are hi-tech models and suffer in no way in comparison to any other manufacturer’s model features,” said Tony Tarabay, sales manager at Gargash Motors. “The local showroom prices for both models will reflect this. These are not low-cost options. In fact, I would say the current crop of high-end China cars feature hi-tech adoption rates faster than even the Koreans.”
Meanwhile, Al Habtoor Motors has sealed a tie-up with Chery Automobile Co., with the initial rollout of three models and followed by another three next year. “I don’t think the question of quality vis-a-vis Chinese-made cars can apply any longer; many of these manufacturers will shortly be selling into the US and Europe,” said Karl Hamer, managing director of Al Habtoor Motors.
“It’s a fact that the iPhone is made in China, and I would say emphatically that Chery is the iPhone among Chinese carmakers.” (Geely is on a Gulf push, with dealerships in Saudi Arabia and Qatar.)
Other Chinese carmakers have tried to make headway in the UAE in recent years. ZNA (which has a joint venture with Nissan) entered an association with AW Rostamani Trading in 2010. Gargash Motors itself had one with Geely “for a short time” from 2008.
Until now it was felt that the biggest inroads Chinese-made models would make would be in the vans and light commercial vehicles category. But Hamer believes that sentiment is not valid. “Given the right pricing and dealer support, the models can make an impact, retail and fleet,” said Hamer. “With Al Habtoor Group also owning Diamond Lease, it is a good platform to build the Chery numbers.”