TBY How long did it take to convince Bentley to set up a branch in Azerbaijan?
EMIN ASGAROV One whole year, including meetings and talks. There was also the time needed to build the showroom, as well as set up the sales and after-sales facilities.
What was Bentley’s management looking for in terms of market potential?
They were looking for a very reliable partner, and good statistics that they could then compare to other markets. We planned to sell 17 cars per year, and we sold 23. The market in Azerbaijan is ready to see luxury car brands develop as the general economy is booming, and once the infrastructure improves to good standards, sales will increase dramatically.
You don’t just sell Bentleys, you also service them. How has this side of your business developed?
In Azerbaijan there were already around 50 Bentleys at the time we opened. Indeed, service is very important for us as part of our strategy and all of our staff undergo continual training on a regular basis. One very important thing to mention is that all Bentley cars are sold with a three-year warranty over unlimited kilometers.
Are you looking to bring in other luxury or super car brands? Do you think the market is ready for that?
The most important issue is that infrastructure is not ready for super cars like Ferraris and Lamborghinis; once roads and highways are in a good state of repair, I think that we will see more and more of such cars.
Do you aim to build a close and personal kind of relationship with your customers?
We do, yes, because owning a Bentley is something special. In fact, we give the opportunity for the owners of Bentley cars to visit our factory in Crewe, UK, where they can see their car being built. You can customize your car however you like—the stitching, the veneer, the color, and the like. One such customer here did just that, and after seeing how the car was made he fell in love with it. There are some funny stories. Like one customer who wanted his car the same color as his toaster. He got it.
What’s your outlook for the luxury car market in Azerbaijan for 2011 and 2012?
It’s growing and there’s a lot of potential. There are a lot of economic projects going on in the country, in construction, tourism, and of course oil and gas. Azerbaijan’s infrastructure is improving year after year. Compared to five years ago, when you would hardly find a good restaurant, now you have world-class restaurants with world-renowned chefs. There are also world-famous brands in fashion, jewelry, everything. So there is now a demand for luxury goods and fine living. People want to eat sushi, they want to buy haute couture, and they also want to buy luxury cars. I think in the near future there will be Ferraris and Lamborghinis—even Bugattis—on the streets of Azerbaijan.
© The Business Year