Following a tough 2020 for the global car industry, which shut down en masse for five weeks in April 2020, there's been a race by the auto heavyweights to make up for lost time and get back to normal.
However, the managing director of Volkswagen Middle East, Victor Dalmau, has played a delicate waiting game before unleashing a never-before-seen, three-pronged product offensive to coincide with Ramadan.
Three cars in two weeks
The latest iteration of Volkswagen's Golf GTI was launched in the region barely a week after his team unveiled the new T-Roc baby SUV, which in turn was just a few days after the regional debut of the face-lifted, seven-seat Teramont.
Three major launches inside two weeks all while maintaining Covid-19 safety measures was a risk, but one Dalmau believes will pay off from later in April and through 2021.
“The head office in Germany didn't want us to do it this way because they saw risk in something going wrong, but I was saying: ‘Look, if it happens, we'll manage it’ – because besides the business opportunity, our team and our dealers needed this fresh injection of energy to say: ‘We are back.’
“We have a new wave of products just as Ramadan commences and our Middle East team is happy with that,” Dalmau says at the launch of the eighth generation of the venerable hot-hatch.
Cashing in on Covid-fatigue
Dalmau says the company decided to hold back releasing some models and time it so that all three would go just before Ramadan because "it's normally a high season, and we feel there is a certain Covid-fatigue out there".
"Reading the landscape, I believe people are looking for an excuse to reward themselves, so we think Ramadan will be very busy.
“Covid is obviously out of our control, and our region consists of many countries with different protocols and different vaccination rates, but we believe there is a psychological factor that people are just tired and are saying to themselves: ‘You know what? I just want to buy that car.’ Maybe the financial situation is the same as five months ago, but psychologically, I think people are looking for a reason to reward themselves.”
Ramadan presents unique opportunity
Globally, the Mk8 Golf GTI was launched last February, while the facelifted, US-made Teramont was unveiled in Chicago in 2020 and the T-Roc left the factory in November, which under normal circumstances would have flowed through at a steady rate; however, Dalmau felt a more aggressive strategy was needed that required initial restraint before unleashing the model onslaught.
“We knew it was going to be stressful for the team, but we thought, let's go into this with three cars all at once, which is something that normally you would never do because it's extremely difficult. Our first quarter sales to the end of March have been as per expectations because we took this path to hold back for the unique reasons this region presents with Ramadan.
“The last 12 months have taught us to think differently, so what works for places like Europe will be different here, and the Middle East is always a buyer’s market during this time, so let’s see.”
All three models have gone on sale this week providing a boost to regional showrooms that struggled during the peak of the pandemic when many household budgets for car sales were diverted to domestic items and home entertainment systems.