ABU DHABI // The April 1 deadline for the capital's used-car dealers to move to a custom-built complex near the airport has passed, but only a third of tenants have started to fit out their showrooms.
"The exact opening date will depend on the progress of individual tenants, but Aldar is working closely with them to achieve this as soon as possible," a spokesman said of the Motor World complex.
Another third are in the process of designing their spaces, but others say they are staying put for the foreseeable future.
Motor World, an Aldar project in Al Shamkha, remains a collection of empty buildings, dusty billboards and litter, with not a car in sight.
The first phase of about 100 showrooms were given to tenants in February, but dealers are waiting for better infrastructure and water connections before moving.
"Aldar is working closely with Abu Dhabi Distribution Company to address this issue and expects to have a resolution in the coming weeks," the Aldar spokesman said.
It is standard practice for units to be delivered in a "core and shell" style for individual customisation, he said.
But many tenants were surprised by the cost of finishing the rental units, which have no flooring, light fixtures or ceilings. They are also unhappy about the showrooms' design, which has steps instead of a ramp.
Developers had expected the dealers to use a mobile ramp and a side entrance that complies with Civil Defence requirements, but makes it difficult to move cars in and out.
Fayyaz Ahmed, the manager of Reem Automobile Showroom, said he liked the idea of a dealership complex like Dubai's Aweer but expected more for the Dh41,850 deposit that he paid last year.
He will pay Dh167,400 a year in rent for a 240 square metre showroom.
"There is no floor, no lights, no roof. We have to pay," said Mr Ahmed. "Aweer complex was very good, fantastic, because in that complex everything was ready ... electricity, lights, floor, roof, everything."
Bassam Al Qadi, a partner at Amwaj New Cars Establishment, paid a Dh96,000 deposit in December 2010. He estimated it would cost Dh200,000 to finish his showroom. "We do like the idea but they didn't finish it right," he said.
He applied for a water connection two months ago. "Still there is no water," he said. "No lights on the road, no signs, no security. Just a place in the middle of the desert."
Motor World plans include car dealerships, car finance and insurance agents as well as three banks and a food and beverage outlet.
"Service providers for these units have submitted proposals and we expect this process to be finalised imminently and fit out to begin in the coming months," the Aldar spokesman said.
"Aldar is also working with Adnoc to develop a petrol station and full service and registration centre located right next to the first phase of showrooms and the service centre," he added. "Our aim is to have a facility open at Motor World by the end of the year."
Motor World, at the intersection of the E11 and E33 motorways, is accessible from the island and Mohammed bin Zayed City, Khalifa City, Al Ain and the planned Al Falah community of 50,000 new residents. But retailers consider the location their biggest challenge.
"Every second day I come here," said Majid Jassim, 25, an Emirati motoring enthusiast who lives near Airport Road. "If this moves to Shamkha it's 40 or 50 kilometres for me. It's so far I may as well go to Sharjah."
Yousef Yousef, the manager of Massaood Harib Automobiles, paid a Dh41,850 deposit for a 240 square metre showroom 15 months ago.
No work has begun, and he has not applied for electricity or water.
"I did not start work because I don't know which day I will go," Mr Yousef said. "Maybe we will wait for six or seven months. The government told us we had to move. That's why we paid this deposit."
His rent will go from Dh50,000 a year for the 45 square metre space on Airport Road, where he parks his merchandise outside, to Dh170,00 a year for a proper showroom.
His biggest concern is losing customers. "Here we are in the middle of town and there is no business," he said. "If we go there and nothing is ready, how will we work? There is no traffic, no bank. Even if you want one water you [would] die there - you do not find water. In the desert they put us."
Mr Ahmed agreed: "[It is] like it was here 30 or 40 years back."
Mr Yousef said: "No, there was water here 40 years back. If you go there, remember my words and take a sandwich or water. Because there's nothing there."