Al-Futtaim Motors in bid to gain edge on car market

Al Futtaim, the distributor of Toyota and Lexus cars in the UAE, has formed a dealer council in a bid to gain an edge in the automobile retail market.

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Al-Futtaim Motors, which distributes Toyota and Lexus cars in the UAE, plans to standardise and brand its network of 125 parts dealers, hoping to gain an edge in the competitive car retail market.

The company has formed a "dealer council", comprising eight elected members, to implement its plan.

"All of these dealers will have the same signboards outside, same look and feel," said Kevin Jones, the senior general manager of after-sales at Al-Futtaim Motors. "And the shops, we will be working with them to help them with training."

The process will be rolled out over this year, he added.

"I anticipate it will be over a 12-month period. It will gradually improve, and after 12 months, it will be a lot nearer to the vision of what these dealers should be."

The council plans to meet quarterly, along with Al-Futtaim representatives, to implement its initiatives and work with government entities to tackle the long-standing problem of counterfeit car parts, said Len Hunt, the president of Al-Futtaim's automotive division.

This move comes after two difficult years for the UAE's car industry. Until 2008, car retailers could barely keep up with demand, as sales grew by double digits annually. But that had changed by 2009, after the economic downturn.

While there are no official figures, retailers estimate car sales across the UAE plummeted by as much as 40 per cent.

Since then, dealers have been investing heavily in their customer service and after-sales markets.

Last year, Al-Futtaim Motors increased its spending on after-sales by 35 per cent.

"The car market is competitive," said Mr Jones. "It's like any business, you always want to be one step ahead. And that's where we're trying to be."