GREAT PRODUCTS, FANTASTIC TEAM

UAE, Dubai 2015 | TOURISM & RETAIL | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Karl Hamer, Managing Director of Al Habtoor Motors, on selling luxury cars, providing fast solutions for customers, and the auto industry's evolution in the UAE.

 Karl Hamer
BIOGRAPHY
Karl Hamer is the Managing Director of Al-Habtoor Motors (AHM). He joined the company in 2008, after gaining over 30 years experience in the global auto industry. He started his career in the UK on the showroom floor and quickly climbed the ranks to the board room holding several key positions, including Chief Executive of a Toyota and Ford family dealer group. In 2013 he ranked amongst one of the most influential Brits in the UAE.

What have been Al-Habtoor Motors most notable achievements?

We have hit record sales rates and growth in our product lines. We are punching well above our weight because we have great products and a fantastic team. BMI predicted 12% growth in the automotive industry in 2014. AHM achieved 38% YoY growth for Mitsubishi and Mitsubishi Fuso—the highest enjoyed by any Japanese manufacturer in the year. We hold about 50% market share of all Mitsubishi cars sold in the GCC for 2014. AHM is also recognized as No. 1 dealer in the GCC and in the forefront of the global automotive industry. We represent some of the best-known brands in the industry; Bentley, McLaren, Bugatti, Mitsubishi, Mitsubishi Fuso Trucks and Buses, and our new Chinese brands JAC and Chery. Our company is unique in that our products range from ultra-luxury cars to budget vehicles.

What new markets would Al-Habtoor like to move into?

The most exciting markets are the GCC and Middle East, in general; markets we know very well. In the words of our Chairman, Mr. Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor, “We like to invest in what we know." We would also consider expansion into Europe and other markets. In November last year we opened the world's largest Mitsubishi 3S facility, with a total area of 230,000 square feet. On top of that, we have developed a tire and battery business brand called SpeedFit in collaboration with a major supermarket chain; we are in the process of developing fast-fit clinics in the supermarket parking lots, where the customer can receive vehicle service while they shop. We have been acquiring new aftermarket brands against stiff competition, and we recently became the UAE distributor for Lukoil automotive oils and lubricants.

What differentiates Al-Habtoor from its competitors in terms of customer service and after sales?

Last year, we put more emphasis on customer care. We launched our new customer charter to all employees, called 'Miles of Smiles.' It is based on five pillars: relationship, safety, investment, time, and feedback. We have moved our logistics operations to Dubai Industrial City (DIC), a 6 million square foot state-of the-art service facility. It is the largest workshop, storage, and parts distribution center in the world, offering first-class facilities to provide customers with the best service possible.

What is your outlook for 2015 and the next few years?

In 2015 we will take our Bentley's franchise to another level; this will be helped by the arrival of the brand new Bentley SUV hitting the market in the first quarter of 2016. It is called the 'Bentayga,' and we have already taken deposits for 174 units. There will be over 18 Bentley products available by 2017. Our volume business and Prestige division are growing. Construction is underway on the 'World of Bentley' on Sheikh Zayed Road, a new Bentley landmark in the UAE and the first and largest of Bentley's global iconic showrooms. This state-of-the-art facility, one of 10 worldwide, is due for completion at the end of 2015 to early 2016. It will be an iconic landmark for the region.

How do you think the auto industry will evolve over the next couple of years?

In 2015, the auto industry is predicted to grow by 9.6% and 7.8% in 2016; however, we aim to surpass that with 21% growth. Oil prices are falling, making fuel, transportation, and logistics more affordable, meaning that people will generally have more disposable income. The dollar has also been strong against the yen, which has been a big plus for the region. There is considerable investment going into the market ahead of Expo 2020. With more governance and corporate responsibility, and in line with the government's long-term vision, UAE-based businesses are getting stronger and leading the region. Good sale growth is expected to continue for the next few years, and the UAE offers positive growth potential both in volume and high-end vehicle segments. Consumer spending is expected to continue in the short to medium-term, and AHM must be prepared if we are going to bring about returns.