New car sales in the United Arab Emirates are likely to jump above the peak achieved in 2008 before the global credit crunch sent its economy into a downturn, a leading figure in the country’s automobile sector said on Tuesday.
Sales in the UAE have been on the rise as the world’s No. 3 oil exporter recovers from the debt crisis, helped by an inflow of business and people seeking a safe haven since unrest elsewhere in the Middle East in 2011.
“We are back after the global crisis,” said Michel Ayat, CEO of AWRostamani Automotives, one of the biggest UAE dealerships, selling Nissan, Infiniti and Renault brands.
“The United Arab Emirates this year will sell more than the peak in 2008,” he told an HSBC automotive roundtable in Dubai, citing figures from the Middle East Automotive Council (MEAC).
Sales are on target for 380,000 vehicles this year, up 23 per cent on 2012 and 40,000 more than in 2008, Ayat said. Sales in the first four months of the year are already at 118,000, against 96,000 in the same period last year, he added.
Other industry forecasters have put the 2008 figure at 324,000, but the exact number is hard to verify because official sales data are not available in the UAE and the Gulf region.
MEAC is an informal body of automotive manufacturers in the Gulf Arab region who share their sales data.
Robust growth in the UAE is in a stark contrast to major markets such as recession-hit Europe, where sales are close to two-decade lows after five years of contraction.
The UAE’s economic growth is seen slowing to 3.3 per cent this year, from 4.4 per cent in 2012, but should remain healthy as private sector investment offsets lower oil prices.
That is likely to keep demand for new cars strong in the UAE and mainly Dubai, where expatriates like to blow their tax-free pay on luxury cars, designer clothes and large villas.
“We will do 450 Bentleys this year,” said Karl Hamer, managing director of Al Habtoor Motors’ Bentley Emirates arm, pointing out that it sold only 86 in 2010.