The Business Year

Neil Slade

UAE, DUBAI - Industry

A License for Luxury

General Manager MENA, Aston Martin


Neil Slade has been working with Aston Martin for 10 years. Currently, he works as Middle East and North Africa General Manager. He has led the expansion of Aston Martin throughout the GCC, India, and Africa. He is based in Dubai and coordinates activity through 15 franchises in 12 different countries. He holds an MSc in Management from Cranfield University.

"We provide great products and it is a car that everybody desires."

The new showroom was opened in 2012 and the expectation was to sell over 100 cars per year. Were these expectations fulfilled?

Of course, we were very excited to open the showroom. In 2013, we met our expectations in sales. In 2014, we are on the same road again, and, naturally, we have brought some additional things to the market. For example, in 2014 we brought online a new service center, which contains state-of-the-art technology. It is enough to cope with all of the UAE’s business and more. It provides fantastic expertise and facilities, and this is all new for the UAE. At the end of the day, it was one thing bringing cars in to sell; however, the most important thing is that the customers who have those cars know that they will be looked after. They need that piece of mind. Our expectation is to continue growing as we build up our reputation.

What is the significance of the after-sales part of the business for the luxury car sector?

It is an extremely significant part of business. As more cars are sold in the country and the region, it becomes even more important. People want to know that there is a business that can fix their car with fully trained technicians and genuine parts. They are looking for somewhere where they do not have to wait, they will be dealt with in a nice manner, and they are going to enjoy the experience. You are spending a lot of money on this car, and you want to be sure that the whole package is there. By making this investment, we can deliver what the customer expects, what the customer deserves, and what they should be getting. This is to the same standard as anywhere else in the world.

What has been the key to your great success?

Aston Martin now has 150 showrooms around the world. We were here about three years ago, but we closed for three years, and now we have reopened with a state-of-the-art, more boutique-type showroom in a strategic part of Dubai, next to Dubai Mall; it is really one of the top showrooms in the world. The key to success is a great brand. It is a fantastic car, and it has so much history. Last year was our 100th anniversary. We provide great products and it is a car that everybody desires; however, very few can afford it. Of course, we have our history with James Bond and every child’s dream is to be James Bond and have his car. This is another reason why we are a well-known brand.

“We provide great products and it is a car that everybody desires.”

What is the strategy behind Aston Martin’s decision to launch a limited edition of the Lagonda model?

It is a limited edition of 200 cars that is exclusively for the Middle East, meaning nowhere else in the world can have this model. It came out of the success of the One77 Super Car that we did three years ago, which was a $2 million car. The value of this car will be in keeping with its exclusivity and final pricing will depend on the customers own unique bespoke configuration. We only made 77 One77s, and they sold out. We had substantial demand from the market for something that was more luxurious with more space, but still fast. This is going to be the finest of fast cars. It is quick and light because it is built from carbon fiber, meaning it is not like driving a tank. Plus, it comes with the luxury of size and you can put it in the class of a limousine. And the strategy is driven by local demand, which is why we are only going to sell it in the Middle East. It is a huge compliment to the region that Aston Martin, a global company, is able and willing to make something just for the Middle East. One of the reasons for this is that it is a small, dynamic company in the UK, and if the market base asks for something, as long as it is feasible, the company can turn it around quickly and deliver. On November 10, 2014, we are holding the global launch for Lagonda here in in Dubai. How many other automotive companies would do a global launch in Dubai? This is the first of any that I can think of. This is strategically important for us, and we test the car in the Middle East to make sure it is suitable for the conditions. We expect this to be a reward for our loyal customer base at the end of the day. They are getting what they are asking for.

What other products are you going to launch in 2014 and 2015?

This is, of course, the major product for us. We have also released now, for 2015, a vastly improved eight-speed Vanquish and Rapide S, which is the next generation of these two products. Of course they exist today, but it will be the next stage. They are vastly different in terms of efficiency and in many other areas.

What are the main features your clients look for when they come to your showroom?

Ours is a niche and a luxury product; yet, more than anything, people are looking for a lifestyle. We already know that Aston Martin delivers a powerful and beautiful car. We have won many awards for having the most beautiful fast cars, but it also has soul. It is a lifestyle and it is a car you can drive every day. It is not something you just drive on the weekend because it is luxurious and comfortable to drive. At the same time, it is not something that everybody can have. That is important. It is part of the luxury lifestyle.

Is there a difference between clients in the UAE and clients in the rest of the MENA region?

I would say in the UAE there is a much larger expatriate population, and this can sometimes drive different expectations. We do see some differences within the region. Generally in the UAE, the customer base is willing to be more experimental with different colors and different Q designs, which means it is bespoke for the customer. They want the car to be one of a kind, with their signature on it. No other car is produced like this in terms of the selection of colors, and the accessories within the car, such as a gold or platinum finishing. They want to make the car more bespoke than perhaps customers in the rest of the region. Saying this, the whole region is different. In my view, they are an advanced customer. They all want something special and they are prepared to take the time to get the product that they really want. They may come to us with a color for example, from a material or any type of object, and ask for that to be used for their car. And we can deliver this.

Are you planning to expand in the region in the medium term?

As Aston Martin, we are expanding in the region. In 2015, we are looking to open four new showrooms regionally, as well as three new service centers. Planned investment across the region in terms of infrastructure is about $11 million.

© The Business Year – December 2014



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