The Owners’ Club: Saudi Arabia’s thriving luxury car market
Sheikh Ghassan Al Sulaiman from Al Ghassan Motors discusses Saudi Arabia's $20bn per year luxury car market
Every year Saudi Arabia imports 600,000 cars, worth more than $20bn. Sheikh Ghassan Al Sulaiman, CEO of Al Ghassan Motors, tells World Finance that the key to the industry is creating the luxury lifestyle associated with the brands.
World Finance: Saudi Arabia’s luxury car market is booming. Every year the country imports 600,000 cars, worth more than $20bn. Luxury vehicles account for more than 18 percent of total imported cars, making it the world’s largest market in the luxury car category.
With me now is Sheikh Ghassan Al Sulaiman from Al Ghassan Motors: a leading car dealer in the country.
How does the car market differ in Saudi Arabia from the rest of the Arab world?
Ghassan Al Sulaiman: Saudi Arabia is completely different.
We have representation in the three major cities in Saudi Arabia, and the distance between each one of them and their population is equal to one of our neighbours.
We believe that Saudi Arabia has a big number of high-net-worth families; and you’ll see that some of these families will have more than one of our brands, the luxury cars.
But in general, the Saudi customer enjoys the quality and luxury that our brands offer. And that’s also in the rest of the GCC.
World Finance: So what is the key to being successful in the luxury car market in Saudi Arabia?
Ghassan Al Sulaiman: Customer care and aftersales service is the key. It’s always been the key of success: if you succeed in aftersales, you will succeed in sales.
Our customers would like to enjoy a lifestyle associated with the brands they drive. And that’s what we do. We create the owners’ club, to give them that lifestyle, and let them associate with the same people, in the same lifestyle, with the same brands.
So what we do too is, we invest a lot in aftersales, and the sales facilities and training of our people; to give our customers the best service they deserve in these luxury brands.
World Finance: Now you also deal in pre-owned cars; how much of a market is there for this? What kind of figures are we talking about?
Ghassan Al Sulaiman: For the last seven years, sales of new luxury cars has been growing. And logically there will be a lot of pre-owned cars in the market. And usually in the mature market there is a ratio of selling two used cars to one new one.
We’re not there yet, but the market is getting to that ratio. But it is logical for us to concentrate on the pre-owned market, and the pre-owned cars, for the reason that the customer will find cars being offered in a factory standard. And at the same time we can protect the resale value for these cars.
On this basis we opened in Jeddah the first pre-owned facility; and now, by the end of this year, we’re going to open one in Riyadh.
World Finance: So what other big projects are you working on this year? What’s next for the business?
Ghassan Al Sulaiman: As I mentioned before, the expansion in our facilities of sales and aftersales is ongoing. But we believe that with the expansion in the market, and the products coming from our partners and manufacturers – for example, the Bentley SUV – Bentayga – is coming. And that will increase, as we understand, and we forecast a 25 percent increase in our sales. So we need to improve on our facilities to accommodate this.
Also, as you know, Infinity is one of the largest growing brands in the Middle East today. And we forecast for Saudi Arabia a 30 percent growth year-on-year for the next five years.
So we believe we need to improve our facilities to accommodate all this. And our goal in this is to make our customer get the right help and the right facilities, and the right product at the end.
Our goal in this is to give our customer the best service possible, by being associated with our brands.
World Finance: Finally, how do you see the luxury car industry developing in 2015?
Ghassan Al Sulaiman: We see continuous growth, and we believe that the market is going to grow at a faster pace, because of the booming economy in Saudi Arabia. And also, all these models that are coming from the manufacturer.
And actually, like we mentioned before, there’s a lot of motors coming in the next few years. And that will make the business we’re in booming to very high levels.
And we really see that the manufacturers look at us as key players in the market. And they are really helping us and pushing us to get to our goals.