It’s not unusual for a visitor to the UAE to come across a Chrome Ferrari 599 GTB or a Matt Black Bugatti Veyron on the way home from the airport — or even to be picked up in a BMW convertible when they arrive. Unlike the one about streets paved with gold, this stereotype about Dubai does not ring false.
When they land at the airport, visitors to Dubai, in fact, have the option of being able to drive out in a Mustang, a Dodge Charger, McLaren MP4, Porsche Boxter or a Ferrari 458 Italia.
“People used to actually ask for Mustangs at Terminal One. We introduced a Mustang 5.0 as a rental option at the airport two days before the Meydan World Cup in March, since we knew a lot of people would fly in for the World Cup,” Soumitra Sinha, Sales and Marketing Manager at Thrifty Car Rental, tells GN Focus.
The premium car rental space in Dubai is teeming with very interesting options — from the centipede limousine that is often seen trawling around the city, to a very eco-friendly Tesla Roadster at Green Car Rental, to standard-issue BMWs and Audis.
“Luxury car rentals are about 10 to 15 per cent of our business,” says Aswini Borkotoky, MD, Carlease Rent A Car based in the UAE.
There is something about five-lane highways sloped perfectly for ensuring zero sideways friction, flanked in places by undulating sandscapes which change colour depending on the sun’s trajectory, which makes the drive particularly attractive.
For many visitors, more stunning than the unlimited sky and desert sands is the fact that some of the most powerful cars can be theirs for as low as Dh3,000 a day on a special deal. “The scene that comes to mind is driving from San Francisco to Los Angeles along the coastal road,” says Borkotoky, who is planning to add some more high-end BMWs, Mercedes-Benzes and Audis to his fleet this year, a good choice since the market for luxury cars demands keeping up with the latest model changes. Luxury car renters keep the companies on their toes, demanding specific colours and the latest models.
While visitors to the country, both businesspeople and tourists, are the obvious targets, luxury car companies also find renters among UAE residents.
“About 40 per cent of our demand comes from visitors. Those from the GCC countries such as Qatar and Bahrain are among the biggest clients,” says Fahad Khan, Showroom In-charge for Lane Cars, which houses BMWs, Range Rovers and Audis and arranges supercars from other rental agencies if necessary.
Now many UAE residents are choosing these cars as well. “We see demand during the wedding season for the bride and the groom to drive in, for gala dinners and for red carpet events. Sometimes multinational companies hire luxury cars if very senior managers are visiting them,” says Borkotoky.
The luxury car renter keeps the rental companies on their toes, demanding specific colours and latest models. More often than not, these consumers have driven similar models back home. “People ask if we have a soft-top Mustang. For Dodge Chargers, people like a couple of colours a lot. It’s a very male thing so we have people ask for charcoal grey, jet black and dark maroon,” says Sinha. Khan adds that Ferraris must be red, while the most popular choices for Lamborghini are black and white.
While most of these cars can be hired at about Dh5,000 a day, the rental costs can rise above Dh8,000.
Many markets have restrictions for those renting luxury cars. In Europe, for example, some agencies rent high-end cars to only those over 30, and only if they’ve had a driver’s license for three years. Sometimes, two credit cards are required as part of the security deposit. In the UAE, a rental company offering a Ferrari 458 Italia blocks Dh10,000 from your credit card at delivery time to be used in case of traffic fines and damages. “In a luxury car sometimes drivers pick up very huge fines. Since traffic fines are our responsibility, it becomes a job trying to track them,” says Borkotoky. All that horsepower and brag value can certainly push the buttons for ignoring rules.
Lola and the Lady
Lately, in the UAE, at events and galas, two ladies on four wheels have been at the receiving end of much attention.
Lola, an original 1960 Volkswagen camper van, was converted according to the specifications of Desert River, a lifestyle brands and events rental company.
“We had it done because it puts a smile on everyone’s faces. It’s a car which can function as a bar, DJ booth, a reception area or a hostess booth. It comes with an LCD screen, speakers, fridges, a freezer, running water and can easily be connected to laptops and DJ decks. It is one of our most prominent bar concepts,” says Claudia Van Der Werf, Director, Desert River.
Four months ago, Desert River, together with the designer who had converted Lola offered the Lady of Luxury to Dubai.
The 1977 Rolls Royce Silver Shadow is fitted with mahogany interiors. Her side panels come with JBL speakers. She comes with bottle coolers, fridges, iPod docking stations, MK3 players and mixers.
Originally, she was to return to the Netherlands at the end of four months, but having attended a James Bond-themed party among many others, says van der Werf, she has decided to stay. “She is very popular with quite a select audience. In fact, in a couple of months, she is scheduled for an engagement party,” she says.
At Dh12,000 a day, the Lady can certainly rock your event. “Even though she was not created specifically for us, Dubai is the primary market for her. The sky is the limit here. They love new ideas, they love crazy ideas and they love to flaunt it,” says Van Dear Werf.