IN ALIGNMENT

UAE, Dubai 2015 | TOURISM & RETAIL | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Michel Ayat, CEO of AWR Automotive, on growing faster than the market, building customer trust, and how Dubai's 2021 vision inspires the company.

 Michel Ayat
BIOGRAPHY
Michel Ayat is a seasoned automotive industry professional, with over 25 years of experience in managing both volume and luxury automotive brands from Japan and Europe in the Middle Eastern region. Under Ayat’s leadership, AWR Automotive expanded operations regionally, employs over 2,500 people, and generates turnover in excess of $2 billion. Ayat holds a PhD in Political Science and Administration and is a founding member of the Automobile Sector Committee at the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

How would you describe your product offering and their respective market shares?

We have Nissan, Renault, and Infiniti. Nissan's offering covers 90% of the market, starting from the segment B of small or subcompact cars, to the large and luxury segment. With Infiniti we have 57% of the market, and we still have to expand the lineup for Renault. We anticipate that Infiniti sales will triple growth, because Infiniti's strategy is to produce more passenger car models as well as SUVs. Going beyond four or five years, China will play a significant role in the market.

What is the AWR's main customer base?

Through our offering we have an extremely wide client base. Our customers looking for quality and peace of mind buy the smaller cars, and those that prefer adventures in the desert buy the Patrol or one of our SUVs. For luxury, we have the Infiniti models. We specialize in light commercial vehicles that sell mainly to the SMEs and construction companies. Our leasing company has a fleet of around 5,000 units, which caters to different types of companies on the market.

Considering the fierce competition among automobile retailers in Dubai, how do you differentiate yourself from your competitors?

In a market with great leaders, we have the opportunity to compete with the best. We are growing faster than the market and improving our market share in two ways; firstly through our product, which has to meet the expectations of the customer in terms of style, quality, and technology. Secondly, we run the business using the latest and best processes in the world. We also invest in customer service training. Through all of these elements, we are able to maintain our status as the No. 1 company in terms of quality awards. We were the only private company in the UAE to be awarded the Palladium Hall of Fame award, and we were the first UAE automotive distributor to win the Dubai Quality Award.

How does AWR build trust with its future clients?

It is important to note that our customers are buying cars here, whereas in mature markets, they are still leasing cars. Buying a car is like buying a home, and the customer has to feel that they have selected the right partner. Today our job is not simply to sell the car; we work on communicating with customers in a personal way in order to build long-term and friendly relationships based on trust.

Can you expand on your strategy to turn first-time car buyers into long-term customers?

We have strategies to sell to three types of customers—single adults buying first cars, those buying replacement cars, and married adults buying family cars. In terms of selling first cars to new customers, we work on clear communication and advertising. If we have built their trust and confidence, those customers buying replacement cars or additional family cars will choose us.

What are your expectations for the automobile industry in the next few years?

Our expectations are high for the coming six years. Dubai is still a center for family tourism and a business hub, despite the oil price drop. The Dubai 2021 vision inspires our company, and our pillars of growth match those of Dubai's. We are aligned with Dubai. We anticipate opportunities for positive growth; we know our market and know how to overcome upcoming challenges.