Abu Dhabi puts brakes on BMW sales slide

BMW defies a region-wide trend as the German luxury car maker's sales in the capital rose almost 6 per cent with the X6 model its best-selling marque.

Abu Dhabi's BMW drivers defied a region-wide trend last year as the German luxury car maker's sales in the capital rose almost 6 per cent. "Demands of people [in Abu Dhabi] are increasing," said Arno Husselmann, the general manager of Abu Dhabi Motors, BMW's dealership in the capital. "These are people who fly first class, stay in the best hotels in the world, shop in the best boutiques and eat in the best restaurants."

BMW sold more than 2,600 cars in the capital last year with the X6 model its best-selling marque. The dealership's total revenue in Abu Dhabi jumped 30 per cent to Dh1.15 billion (US$313m), including sales, car servicing and part replacement, Mr Husselmann said. Car sales last month were up about 60 per cent compared with the same period last year, he added. BMW sales in Dubai fell about 25 per cent, the company said. Dubai remains the car maker's largest market in the Middle East with about 3,000 cars sold.

The total number of BMWs sold in the UAE last year was about 5,600, including the BMW brand and Minis. Rolls-Royces, also a unit of BMW, were not included in BMW's sales figures. While BMW, the world's largest premium car maker, posted a drop of about 15 per cent in global sales last year, it has increasingly turned to emerging markets such as China, Brazil and the Middle East to boost its bottom line.

BMW's total sales in the Middle East declined by 9 per cent to 14,557 cars sold, the company said. The luxury car sector is expected to have shrunk by about 25 per cent last year, with Lexus and Mercedes-Benz among the hardest-hit brands. Mercedes-Benz sales last year dropped by 19 per cent in the region to roughly 15,200 cars, while Bentley sold 550 cars for the latest year, little changed from the previous one.

Al Futtaim Motors, which sells the Lexus and Toyota brands in the UAE, said that it sold between 55,000 and 66,000 cars in the country last year, compared with 98,000 cars in 2008. "We believe new models and the expansion of dealership networks to cover a greater area will contribute, as will an improved economy," said Anna-Marie Baisden, the head of car research for Business Monitor International, who has forecast 8 per cent growth for this year.

"However, the recent situation in Dubai will obviously pose a risk to this scenario, so we will be keeping a close eye on this with a view to reviewing our forecast." @Email:dgeorgecosh@thenational.ae