For you, is this a family business or a personal passion?
NABIL BAZERJI I am the third generation of my family involved in the automotive business and transportation, so this is both part of my family's history and a passion that has been passed down across generations. The family started operations in Aleppo in 1920 and in Beirut in 1949. Exclusive importers of Suzuki since 1968 and Maserati since 1969, we have dismissed several other brands over the past decades, namely Lancia, Iveco, and Ferrari. We succeeded ranking Suzuki third in Japanese car sales in Lebanon, with about 7% of total market share.
Can you tell us more about the company's history and highlights?
MICHEL TRAD Saad & Trad is the oldest international dealer for Jaguar and Bentley in the world. We have been working with Jaguar since 1950 and with Bentley from 1960. In 2003, we added Lamborghini to enhance our premium product portfolio. As the dealer of Jaguar, Bentley, and Lamborghini, our vision is to specialize in premium and luxury brands that offers our customers the best in car servicing and repair expertise, in addition to being able to personalize our services to the satisfaction of our customers.
How are you attracting new customers, and what changes have you seen in demand?
NB In our Maserati business, we start looking for prospects. We explore several businesses and create contacts with the so-called “golden boys," namely managers, directors, and shareholders. They represent the ideal prospect to boost demand by indirectly targeting their peers. Since Lebanon is a low-income society, the process of acquiring customers is lengthy and entails a customized relationship. Since our main age target is 30-50-year-old professionals, one of our strategies is to allow more in-house car loans in order to be supportive of sales and facilitate their purchasing power. These measures are necessary to stimulate demand in the luxury segment of Maserati, while car loans for Suzuki are provided by the banks. Given the lack of public transportation in Lebanon, a car here is a necessary investment.
MT The rise in demand for SUVs has been quite significant with the demand for passenger cars slowing down. We have seen such changes reflected in our SUV sales volumes during the past year. From a marketing perspective, digitalization has been inevitable, and with the extensive coverage of the digital media, our main marketing focus has been to reach out to our audience via digitalized channels (in addition to the traditional marketing channels) in order to ensure positive results in brand awareness and exposure. We deal with our three brands from the same premises. Every brand has its separate showroom with its dedicated team and preserved corporate identity. Our team has received extensive training overseas from the manufacturers, which makes them experts in what they do. We also cover all aspects from the business from the same facility.
What will be the future for technology in the automotive sector in Lebanon?
NB The government made the right decision to exempt electric vehicles from taxation on import. For the time being, those vehicles are not yet a big industry; however, such measures are necessary to boost demand and prepare the market for the future of the industry. It also limited taxation on hybrid vehicles to 20% maximum for imports.
MT As we are getting ready to introduce electric vehicles to the Lebanese market, we are seeing that the country itself is getting ready as well by installing chargers around the country to support that. Chargers will soon be found in various public hotspots and stations. We have several derivative models that we're launching this year. Bentley will be launching the New GT Convertible, whereas Lamborghini will introduce the Huracan EVO and EVO Spyder to the Lebanese market. We're also launching the all new electric Jaguar I-Pace, the first fully electric Jaguar, which was awarded World Car of The Year 2019.