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Car sales begin to revive after two difficult years
 Dubai, 8th Apr 2001

   Having bottomed out in 2000, the local automotive sector has picked up momentum again and could close the year with 8-10 per cent growth, according to a senior industry source. After scaling a peak of 96,000 vehicles in 1998, UAE car imports dropped alarmingly to 76,000 in 1999 and to 73,000 last year.

"I think we have seen the bottom of the decline. While we may not go back to 1998 levels, this year, overall sales have got off to a good start and the first quarter has been particularly encouraging. If this is maintained, the sector could finish the year with a growth of even up to 10 per cent," said Michel Ayat, general manager of Arabian Automobiles Co (AAC), the Nissan dealership for Dubai and the Northern Emirates.

Nissan is projecting a growth of five per cent for the full year from its GCC operations. Last year, these markets contributed about 63,000 units in sales, with Saudi Arabia accounting for nearly half. The UAE has been another strong contributor. Other regional markets, excluding Egypt, bought another 5,000.

"There has been a general improvement in market sentiment, although the small car segment remains under extreme competitive pressure. With a broader model line-up, we can even go up to a 10 per cent increase during our current financial ending next March 31, 2002," said Shigeru Tsubaki, the new regional managing director of Nissan.

"The yen's current level against the dollar, about 123, has been another factor which has had a favorable impact on our business. For the moment we will continue with our policy of selling in yen to our distributors here."

Nissan has widened its luxury line-up with the launch of a sports utility vehicle, the 3.5-litre Infiniti QX4. Priced at Dh117,000, the mid-sized model is pitted in a category which numbers about 1,500 units a year in the UAE. The other contenders are Mercedes, BMW, Lexus and Land Rover.

Ayat said, "The QX4 adds a new dimension to our product offering and will aim to fill the gap for an affordable luxury SUV required by the affluent local Arabs and successful high net worth expatriate population. We are aiming for 15 per cent in the first year and 25 per cent share for the QX4 by 2003."

AAC yesterday had a soft opening for its new showroom on Sheikh Zayed Road. A second new facility in Deira is to be opened within the next two months. "The premium end of the automobile market is doing well in the Gulf, which is why we are now expanding the Infiniti range beyond North America. In the fourth quarter there will be the new Q45," added Tsubaki.

Source: Gulf News©

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09 April 2001 04:11:09 PM

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