Dubai: Talk about covering all bases — with its representation of Ford and Ferrari in the UAE, Al Tayer Motors is doing just that and then some by also holding the rights for Land Rover, Jaguar and Maserati.
But even as it cements its hold on the luxury and mid-tier categories, the dealership is putting the final touches to being a more serious player in the volume space.
It will do so by shipping in the Figo from Ford's plant in the southern Indian city of Chennai. In March last year the Figo started rolling off the assembly line and it has already been shipped to South Africa and Mexico. The model, set to hit our roads latest by August, has a lot riding on it from the dealership's perspective.
Ashok Khanna, CEO of Al Tayer Motors, sketches the finer details of what these expectations are.
Gulf News: How much of a cushion is it to have a model and brand line-up straddling nearly all categories?
Ashok Khanna: It's certainly a comfort, I can tell you. It's good fortune to have a mix of brands for just about everyone — be it models for every day driving, super-luxury, off-roaders and even an extreme sports model [through a tie up with Roush to customise Mustangs under the ‘Shamal' label]. This in-built cushion takes care of the market cycles.
But the automotive market here is talking about a serious slowdown in sales. Hasn't it been reflected in your showrooms?
On the contrary, that's not been an issue for us. It has been brought about by a combination of factors.
We don't have enough units available on some of the models, so much so sometimes we have to ask customers to wait. This applies more to some of the popular Ford models .
We could see signs of it since the early part of this year and have started to take action on it. Another factor that led to it was our sales being very bullish since the end of last year. The run has extended into May and June as well.
Compared to what we were and what we should be, our stocks are probably lower than optimum levels.
Are you expecting this issue to be resolved by August or so?
While we have to plan six months in advance on the shipments, the manufacturers have to re-jig their own production to take care of any fluctuations in demand.
And, in terms of demand, there has been an upsurge for Ford models all over the world. There are a few models where the manufacturer thought demand would only be so much, while it actually ran much higher than that.
We have taken all steps, but it takes a while for the pipeline to start delivering. By August, the issue will have been addressed to a great extent, but not fully. By September, we should see a big improvement.
How about sourcing from plants elsewhere to ease your supply worries?
We will be getting cars made in India for the first time — that's the Figo model. We are looking at some cars coming from Africa as well. But the decision as to where the shipments should come from is more a function of the manufacturer and where they have their plants.
Have you finalised the pricing for the Figo?
The positioning is still being worked on, but the ballpark figure is that it will be in the low Dh40,000 range.
There's a definite market for it and latest by August it will be here.
As early as two years ago, we felt there was space in that category for us to compete.
Ford has been doing so well and the acceptance is far greater than it was before. They are winning one award after the other.
It was last year that we got the go ahead from Fordto bring the Figo here. Between the Figo and the Fiesta, we will have models in a price range starting from Dh40,000 to more than Dh60,000.
At the same time, you can also buy a car from us that costs more than Dh1 million.
Is your luxury line-up been adding to the volumes?
Since the start of the year, we have had some dramatic months and then some that were good.
Our Shaikh Zayed Road showroom sells the highest number of Range Rovers in the world, and we have won the Middle East Importer of the Year award for Ferrari and Maserati on multiple occasions.
The numbers are strong and continue to be so. Double-digit growth is what this category is putting in for us.
What is the status on the network expansion?
We need to add value to the customer experience by creating well-located and well-spread showrooms and service centres.
To that end, we have added significantly to the network in the last few months with a multi-brand showroom in Ras Al Khaimah and a Ferrari and Maserati showroom in Abu Dhabi.
We will open one in Fujairah, which is a first from us in the emirate. There will also be a huge showroom in Sharjah for which we have just tendered. It is to be completed in a maximum of two years' time.
Any plans to de-link the service centres from the showrooms? Would that make commercial sense?
If people get the experience of the back of the showroom being as good as the front, why should we [de-link them]? Unless it's not logistically possible to have both in the same place.
For instance, in Abu Dhabi it's not possible to have a service centre in the heart of the city; instead we have it in Mussafah.
Is there a business case to venture outside of the UAE?
Our strengths and our brand equity have been well-established here.
If opportunities do arise — and parts of the Group have expanded into other countries as well — to add value, we would consider it. But it's not central to our agenda now.
Our mid-term goal is to be an even more serious contender across all categories in the UAE.
During this period our network will be fully developed and that's going to be a major achievement.