My Car: Grey-market Toyota Prado is a golden boy

Public relations director Amber Dale bought the Toyota SUV, her first car, from Oman five years ago, and it has ferried her around Dubai and beyond faithfully ever since.
Bought using a company that imports vehicles from Oman, Amber Dale was pleased to get the options she wanted at a reasonable price. Antonie Robertson / The National
Bought using a company that imports vehicles from Oman, Amber Dale was pleased to get the options she wanted at a reasonable price. Antonie Robertson / The National

When she first arrived in Dubai 14 years ago, Amber Dale never dreamt that her short vacation would turn into a long and distinguished career in public relations. Falling in love with the city long before its epic boom, she said farewell to her native India and settled down in the place that would provide her first car - a Toyota Prado.

Leaving India behind wasn't easy but neither, as it turns out, was the new world of public relations.

"PR has always been the dark side of the media universe, and navigating through it over the last nine years has been an adventure of sorts," she says. "I realised I was good at what I did. Fast-forward nine years through a number of happy clients, four agencies and several rungs up the career ladder, I find myself as the founder and director of ChatterBox PR & Events."

While many women in the field choose lifestyle accounts to practice their craft, Dale's primary interest is in the very un-sexy field of high-end technology and consumer IT.

"While I love technology I also share a keen interest in automobiles and aviation. It's tremendously fulfilling to lend our expertise as communications specialists to support noble initiatives such as the Lotus Children's Centre in Mongolia through the Mongol Rally 2012, and the PCRF's Goodwill Journey," she says.

Unsurprisingly, when it came time to buy her first car, something dainty and ladylike would not do at all. In fact, her first choice was the massive Nissan Patrol. Eventually, however, she downsized her ambitions to a five-door Prado. Ah, but this is no ordinary Prado - it's a grey market import from Oman, stuffed to the gills with kit.

"I chose to buy my car from GCC International, a company that delivers cars from Oman. My car is loaded with options I wanted at a price that was a lot more reasonable and realistic than what I was getting from the dealer here in Dubai."

People tend to associate buying grey imports with difficulty, but for Dale, this wasn't the case. "GCC International took care of the paperwork and registration at no extra cost and set me up with insurance. I've not had any problems whatsoever. For the price of a base model Prado that is sold through the dealer here, I got top of the range options such as wood trim, a great sound system and built-in Bluetooth, and much more. I also got the car in the colour of my choice in a week.

"I've not had a single issue with the car and it's now close to five years old. I give it almost as much attention as I give my clients and do all the regular stuff, like periodic maintenance, cleaning and rust proofing. It's a go-anywhere, do-anything vehicle."

The number of "do-anything" situations has now increased, since she's just got married - and to a petrolhead, no less. The conversations between husband and wife can often lean towards the heated side of the equation.

"I'm enthusiastic about cars myself but my husband is far more passionate about them," Dale confesses. "I love the fact that we can have conversations about cars and there is never a dull moment."

And even the Prado has become a source of contention, since her husband already has three cars. With only one parking space in her building something has to go - and Dale is adamant that it's not going to be her beloved SUV.

"He has been trying ever since we started dating but he hasn't succeeded so far. I love my car; it has and is still serving me well. I'm a very determined person and won't sell it unless a really strong reason to do so comes up."

Still, five years is a long time to spend with one vehicle - isn't it about time for something new?

"When the time is right I might swap it in for something else that would reflect my personality and tastes at that time," she says. "Since we're talking about dreams, however, I hope to one day own a Mercedes McLaren SLR."

Published: February 23, 2012 04:00 AM


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