The de Macross GT1de Macross GT1.
The de Macross GT1de Macross GT1.

Canadian carmakers think fast, but to what end?



Oh, we assemble lots of four-door, let's-go-shopping Chevrolets and Dodge Caravans, and we even manufactured Bricklins for a bit. But big, powerful road rockets whose main purpose - other than to rid the foolish of their unwanted millions - is to boost the ego of the super-rich as they lord their superiority over the Corolla-driving proletariat? Not so much.

Yet, in the space of just one month has come news that there will be not just one, but two Canadian-built hypercars, the cheapest costing a heady CA$795,000 (Dh3m) with its truly hedonistic competitor falling into the "if you have to ask …" price range.

Remarkably unCanadian in comportment, these supercars will suck back petrol quicker than a fleet of Hummers, are as impractical as a bikini in a Kapuskasing snowstorm and, considering the rigours of Canadian law enforcement - at least in my home province of Ontario - are unlikely to ever venture further than second gear on the roads of their home country.

An Italian supercar, I get. Ditto for the Germans and their unlimited-speed autobahns. I even understand the idea of a US-built super sports car; despite equally draconian speed laws, their chrome it and flaunt it culture welcomes the look-at-me stylings common to all supercars. But why would a Canadian company want to produce such impractical beasts?

I have to apologise if you thought I might have the answer to that mystery. I actually have no idea why anyone would want to build supercars here in the Great White Frozen North (it is, quite literally, blizzarding as I write this).

I am a mere armchair psychiatrist, often left to ponder the indecipherable (like why Charlie Sheen has so pig-headedly thrown away the best gig in the world), though I do suspect that these low, slinky four-wheeled fashion statements are as much an ego stroke for their builders as they are for their owners. All that I know is that after years of churning out Chevy Impalas and Chrysler minivans, Canada can now boast the de Macross GT1 and the HTT Plethore. It is the latter that is the more famous of the two, HTT Technologies having recently been the recipient of a $1.5 million lifeline from the geniuses on CBC's Dragon's Den (a Canadian reality TV show that features investors looking for companies upon which to lavish their venture capital). The grant was based, it would seem, on the chief executive Sebastien Forest's claim that HTT can persuade 50 wealthy Middle Eastern, Chinese and American buyers to pony up $795,000 annually to buy a supercar built in Quebec.

HTT is relying on the Plethore's 750hp supercharged V8 and its incredible 2.8-second zero-to-100kph acceleration (though Nissan's mass-produced GT-R can perform the same feat for a mere $100,000) as key drawing points. It should be noted, however, that a Canadian newspaper reported that when Dragon's Den investor Robert Herjavec went for a test drive, the prototype developed transmission issues, not surprising since HTT has little experience in mass-producing complete cars.

From that standpoint, the even more recently developed de Macross GT1 might stand a better chance of success. The brainchild of the wealthy South Korean entrepreneur Jahong Hur (who drew its basic shape), the GT1 is the work of Multimatic, a parts maker based in the Toronto suburb of Markham that supplies suspension components to Formula One teams and builds the chassis for Aston Martin's phantasmagorical One-77. That expertise also helps explain how Multimatic was able to take the GT1 from drawing board to driveable prototype in just 14 months.

The de Macross is powered by a supercharged V8, this one a Roush Yates 5.4L Ford V8, rumoured to pump out 830hp. The GT1, like the Plethore, has a carbon-fibre chassis (similar in construction to the McLaren-produced SLR Mercedes-Benz), but the body panels, in a nod to time-honoured supercar tradition (not to mention lower repair costs), are hand-beaten aluminium.

Bristling with Multimatic's motorsports technology, the GT1 incorporates the world's first fully hydraulic anti-roll bar and another nifty tidbit that simultaneously lowers the ride height (for superior handling) while raising the suspension spring rate (and not just the easily adjusted shock damping). That means all that expensive, hand-beaten aluminium bodywork doesn't grind into the tarmac every time the GT1 encounters the endless frost heaves that pass for Canadian motorways.

Despite whatever technological prowess they boast, both cars face an uphill battle in a crowded field.

The market for supercars is tiny - less than a few thousand per year worldwide and populated with historic names like McLaren, Aston Martin (the de Macross will go head to head with the Multimatic-produced One-77 since they are expected to cost about the same, $1.5 million) and Bugatti.

Even a relative newcomer such as Pagani (builder of the much acclaimed Zonda) was founded by a former Lamborghini manager and sources its V12 engines from Mercedes-Benz's famed AMG tuning division.

Neither Canadian company can boast such pedigree. HTT's founders designed parts for race cars and Mr Hur, although well financed, has no experience in automobile construction or design. Theirs will be a long uphill battle for credibility in a market where credibility is the one quality that trumps all.

The biog

Name: Younis Al Balooshi

Nationality: Emirati

Education: Doctorate degree in forensic medicine at the University of Bonn

Hobbies: Drawing and reading books about graphic design

Company Profile

Company name: Cargoz
Date started: January 2022
Founders: Premlal Pullisserry and Lijo Antony
Based: Dubai
Number of staff: 30
Investment stage: Seed

Company profile

Company name: Fasset
Started: 2019
Founders: Mohammad Raafi Hossain, Daniel Ahmed
Based: Dubai
Sector: FinTech
Initial investment: $2.45 million
Current number of staff: 86
Investment stage: Pre-series B
Investors: Investcorp, Liberty City Ventures, Fatima Gobi Ventures, Primal Capital, Wealthwell Ventures, FHS Capital, VN2 Capital, local family offices

The years Ramadan fell in May

1987

1954

1921

1888

Medicus AI

Started: 2016

Founder(s): Dr Baher Al Hakim, Dr Nadine Nehme and Makram Saleh

Based: Vienna, Austria; started in Dubai

Sector: Health Tech

Staff: 119

Funding: €7.7 million (Dh31m)

 

ROUTE TO TITLE

Round 1: Beat Leolia Jeanjean 6-1, 6-2
Round 2: Beat Naomi Osaka 7-6, 1-6, 7-5
Round 3: Beat Marie Bouzkova 6-4, 6-2
Round 4: Beat Anastasia Potapova 6-0, 6-0
Quarter-final: Beat Marketa Vondrousova 6-0, 6-2
Semi-final: Beat Coco Gauff 6-2, 6-4
Final: Beat Jasmine Paolini 6-2, 6-2

THE BIO:

Sabri Razouk, 74

Athlete and fitness trainer 

Married, father of six

Favourite exercise: Bench press

Must-eat weekly meal: Steak with beans, carrots, broccoli, crust and corn

Power drink: A glass of yoghurt

Role model: Any good man

UAE currency: the story behind the money in your pockets
Specs

Power train: 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 and synchronous electric motor
Max power: 800hp
Max torque: 950Nm
Transmission: Eight-speed auto
Battery: 25.7kWh lithium-ion
0-100km/h: 3.4sec
0-200km/h: 11.4sec
Top speed: 312km/h
Max electric-only range: 60km (claimed)
On sale: Q3
Price: From Dh1.2m (estimate)

Mercer, the investment consulting arm of US services company Marsh & McLennan, expects its wealth division to at least double its assets under management (AUM) in the Middle East as wealth in the region continues to grow despite economic headwinds, a company official said.

Mercer Wealth, which globally has $160 billion in AUM, plans to boost its AUM in the region to $2-$3bn in the next 2-3 years from the present $1bn, said Yasir AbuShaban, a Dubai-based principal with Mercer Wealth.

Within the next two to three years, we are looking at reaching $2 to $3 billion as a conservative estimate and we do see an opportunity to do so,” said Mr AbuShaban.

Mercer does not directly make investments, but allocates clients’ money they have discretion to, to professional asset managers. They also provide advice to clients.

“We have buying power. We can negotiate on their (client’s) behalf with asset managers to provide them lower fees than they otherwise would have to get on their own,” he added.

Mercer Wealth’s clients include sovereign wealth funds, family offices, and insurance companies among others.

From its office in Dubai, Mercer also looks after Africa, India and Turkey, where they also see opportunity for growth.

Wealth creation in Middle East and Africa (MEA) grew 8.5 per cent to $8.1 trillion last year from $7.5tn in 2015, higher than last year’s global average of 6 per cent and the second-highest growth in a region after Asia-Pacific which grew 9.9 per cent, according to consultancy Boston Consulting Group (BCG). In the region, where wealth grew just 1.9 per cent in 2015 compared with 2014, a pickup in oil prices has helped in wealth generation.

BCG is forecasting MEA wealth will rise to $12tn by 2021, growing at an annual average of 8 per cent.

Drivers of wealth generation in the region will be split evenly between new wealth creation and growth of performance of existing assets, according to BCG.

Another general trend in the region is clients’ looking for a comprehensive approach to investing, according to Mr AbuShaban.

“Institutional investors or some of the families are seeing a slowdown in the available capital they have to invest and in that sense they are looking at optimizing the way they manage their portfolios and making sure they are not investing haphazardly and different parts of their investment are working together,” said Mr AbuShaban.

Some clients also have a higher appetite for risk, given the low interest-rate environment that does not provide enough yield for some institutional investors. These clients are keen to invest in illiquid assets, such as private equity and infrastructure.

“What we have seen is a desire for higher returns in what has been a low-return environment specifically in various fixed income or bonds,” he said.

“In this environment, we have seen a de facto increase in the risk that clients are taking in things like illiquid investments, private equity investments, infrastructure and private debt, those kind of investments were higher illiquidity results in incrementally higher returns.”

The Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, one of the largest sovereign wealth funds, said in its 2016 report that has gradually increased its exposure in direct private equity and private credit transactions, mainly in Asian markets and especially in China and India. The authority’s private equity department focused on structured equities owing to “their defensive characteristics.”

KEY DATES IN AMAZON'S HISTORY

July 5, 1994: Jeff Bezos founds Cadabra Inc, which would later be renamed to Amazon.com, because his lawyer misheard the name as 'cadaver'. In its earliest days, the bookstore operated out of a rented garage in Bellevue, Washington

July 16, 1995: Amazon formally opens as an online bookseller. Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies: Computer Models of the Fundamental Mechanisms of Thought becomes the first item sold on Amazon

1997: Amazon goes public at $18 a share, which has grown about 1,000 per cent at present. Its highest closing price was $197.85 on June 27, 2024

1998: Amazon acquires IMDb, its first major acquisition. It also starts selling CDs and DVDs

2000: Amazon Marketplace opens, allowing people to sell items on the website

2002: Amazon forms what would become Amazon Web Services, opening the Amazon.com platform to all developers. The cloud unit would follow in 2006

2003: Amazon turns in an annual profit of $75 million, the first time it ended a year in the black

2005: Amazon Prime is introduced, its first-ever subscription service that offered US customers free two-day shipping for $79 a year

2006: Amazon Unbox is unveiled, the company's video service that would later morph into Amazon Instant Video and, ultimately, Amazon Video

2007: Amazon's first hardware product, the Kindle e-reader, is introduced; the Fire TV and Fire Phone would come in 2014. Grocery service Amazon Fresh is also started

2009: Amazon introduces Amazon Basics, its in-house label for a variety of products

2010: The foundations for Amazon Studios were laid. Its first original streaming content debuted in 2013

2011: The Amazon Appstore for Google's Android is launched. It is still unavailable on Apple's iOS

2014: The Amazon Echo is launched, a speaker that acts as a personal digital assistant powered by Alexa

2017: Amazon acquires Whole Foods for $13.7 billion, its biggest acquisition

2018: Amazon's market cap briefly crosses the $1 trillion mark, making it, at the time, only the third company to achieve that milestone

Company profile

Name: Tratok Portal

Founded: 2017

Based: UAE

Sector: Travel & tourism

Size: 36 employees

Funding: Privately funded

The burning issue

The internal combustion engine is facing a watershed moment – major manufacturer Volvo is to stop producing petroleum-powered vehicles by 2021 and countries in Europe, including the UK, have vowed to ban their sale before 2040. The National takes a look at the story of one of the most successful technologies of the last 100 years and how it has impacted life in the UAE.

Part three: an affection for classic cars lives on

Read part two: how climate change drove the race for an alternative 

Read part one: how cars came to the UAE


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