On the sprawling forecourts of the Ras Al Khor car trading district in Dubai, the Volkswagen ID fully electric hatchback is selling fast.
One dealer said more than 40 had been sold in the past three months and were now being driven by happy customers. Another said a further 15 cars due to arrive in the next few days had almost sold out in advance.
Shipped in from China, Hanzi lettering on the rear of each vehicle is the only distinguishing sign these vehicles are imported.
Selling for about Dh145,000, with zero kilometres on the clock, at first glance they look like the next generation of electric vehicles due to follow in the tyre tracks of Tesla and others on to the nation’s highways.
However, the vehicle is not yet tested for use in the UAE, where mid-summer temperatures can reach 50ºC and place a huge strain on the 77kWh battery found underneath the front two seats of the car.
The cars would not be under warranty and could face difficulty being repaired.
“This vehicle is the fastest-selling vehicle we have had in years,” said one dealer, who had four of the vehicles for sale, two ID4 Pro Crozz and two other ID6, a seven-seater version perfect for a growing family.
Dealers do not hide behind the fact the vehicles are imported from China.
They admit they come without warranty, a reason why they are priced close to Dh30,000 cheaper than the same vehicle would in other countries at Volkswagen dealerships.
When asked if they were safe to drive in the desert heat, the traders said there would be no issues with the batteries, and little chance of them catching fire.
In a statement, the Ministry of Industry and Advanced Technology said any vehicle it approves the import of would have an identification card.
This "ensures the vehicles are free from severe damages specified in the government database that would not allow the vehicles to be sold".
Batteries still to be approved
Talib Alrubai, chief executive of Alba Cars, a large dealership in Dubai, said he was aware that private dealers had managed to import these vehicles.
“The iD4 cars imported have been built in China,” he said.
“A deal has been done with Volkswagen to make branded electric cars in China.
“Al Nabooda is the official VW dealer, but these vehicles are being brought in by private dealers as technically they are not VW cars.
“People are able to register them quite easily.
“They are yet to be fully tested, but so far we have only heard good things. With the latest technology, AC is one of the most basic functions of the vehicle.
“There is a small risk of the battery overheating, but there is not enough data to suggest how common it could be.”
The Roads and Transport Authority does not deal with certification, only registration of vehicles, and did not comment on the issue.
Certification is carried out by the Ministry of Industry and Advanced Technology. It did not respond to a request for clarification.
Vehicles could be difficult to repair
Al Nabooda Automobiles is the official dealership of Volkswagen in Dubai and the Northern Emirates.
It issued a statement for consumers thinking of buying an electric vehicle not yet fully tested in the UAE and GCC.
“We are aware that a number of Volkswagen Electric Vehicles (EVs) have been imported into the UAE through unofficial channels,” the statement said.
“As of now, Volkswagen EVs have not been released to UAE. This means despite inaccurate claims made by these resellers, Volkswagen EVs currently sold here do not come with international warranty and subsequently all service and maintenance requirements cannot be undertaken by Al Nabooda Automobiles or any service facility approved by Volkswagen in UAE.
“Customers who do choose to buy through these unofficial channels should do so knowing that in addition to a lack of servicing and warranty the vehicles come with a software version intended for another market and similar to warranty and servicing, this cannot be supported by Volkswagen and Al Nabooda Automobiles.”
A similar statement was issued concerning Audi electric vehicles that are not yet available to buy from dealerships in the UAE, of which Al Nabooda Automobiles is also the official supplier.
“In the past few months, we have observed that there has been a large number of Audi battery electric cars (BEVs) that have been imported into the country by non-authorised organisations/traders,” the statement said.
“It has also been observed that the said non-authorised organisations/traders have been miscommunicating to customers that the aforementioned Audi battery electric cars carry an international warranty and that all service and maintenance requirements can be attended to by the authorised dealer in the market.
“We urgently wish to inform our customers and the local community that these electric cars have not been officially released for sale in the UAE and the obligation to offer after-sale services and warranty lies with the seller of the product."