Aston Martin parts ways with Al Habtoor

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After a successful 20 year partnership with Al Habtoor motors, Aston Martin is parting ways, as part of a strategic expansion plan in the Middle East and North Africa to emphasize the company as a maker of luxury products and to increase sales in the region.

“The Middle East and North Africa is a key market,” said Adham Charanoglu, the chief executive of Aston Martin in the region. “People at the factory realize how important the market is here.”

As part of the regional expansion, millions of Dirhams will be spent on showrooms in both Dubai and Abu Dhabi, led by a new joint venture with a local dealer due to be named this year.

Mr Charanoglu said Aston Martin had enjoyed a long and fruitful partnership with Al Habtoor and was now working with the company to find what he called “rebranded representation” by the end of the year.

“It’s not switching in the context of good or not good, but we believe we would rather see ourselves as a luxury brand, we are very thankful [for] everything Al Habtoor did for the Aston Martin brand in the UAE.”

“Obviously, the recession has not had any sort of impact on our numbers in 2009 or 2010,” said Charanoglu. “From that perspective, it makes our ongoing partner development programme all the more vital to our longer term interests in the region.”

Al Habtoor was unavailable for comment.

Indeed, luxury car sales across all competing brands have been on the rise, including Rolls-Royce which last week announced that unit volumes were up 40 per cent during the first half of the year.

New strategy

Helping to fuel the brand’s new strategy is the fact sales of Aston Martin cars are up 30 per cent in the region in the first half of the year compared with the same period last year. The company now offers 15 models in the region, including variations on the DB9, the Vantage and the Rapide.

Two years ago, the brand was present in five locations around the region; it is now sold in 13 showrooms.

Aston Martin Middle East & North Africa has opened offices in Istanbul and Mumbai in the past year or so and plans to open showrooms in Ankara, New Delhi, Kazakhstan and Morocco before the end of the year.

Mr Charanoglu said the new Dubai showroom would be built in an area of the city that would reflect the luxury nature of the cars.

The company is majority-owned by KuwaitsInvestment Dar, whichbought it from Ford in 2007in a deal worth 479m ($766m). The Kuwaiti group has long been rumored to be considering an IPO that would allow it to offload the investment.

Looking forward

Five years from now, UK-based luxury car maker Aston Martin hopes Asia, along with the Middle East (ME) markets, will make up to 25% of its total sales.

Last year, Aston Martin sold 5,000 cars globally.

”We expect a quarter of our total production going from Asia and the Middle East together in the next five years,” said Michael van der Sande, chief executive officer, Aston Martin.

Mark Kenworthy, general manager – Middle East and North America, Aston Martin, said “We see growth in the Middle East market and would look at further expanding our reach in the region. We aim to explore countries like Oman, Jordan, Egypt and Istanbul in the next couple of years. For India, we are very optimistic and the start has been great.”

Currently, the Middle East contributes up to 5% to the overall sales of the company.

It was not clear as to whether Al Habtoor, the exclusive dealer of luxury cars Bentley and Bugatti, will be looking for partnership with another luxury car.

Sources: The National, Gulfnews, Financial Times, news.msn

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