If you try to think of the automobile industry in the Middle East — and not sales figures, but actual manufacturing — be prepared to clear your schedule and embark on hours of headscratching.
Besides giants like General Motors and its assembly plants in the region, there is no notable Middle Eastern car company out there. Except, of course, for Egypt’s Nasr car company, and Iran’s SAIPA and Iran Khodro. But we did say ‘notable’.
Over in Egypt the state-owned El Nasr Automotive Manufacturing Company is responsible for such legendary automobiles as the Nasr Sahin, Florida, and Dogan.
You may as well just call any of them old Fiats. As for Iran’s automobile industry, which is actually huge, the two rival companies manage to churn out a million vehicles per year, making Iran the 16th biggest automaker on the planet.
Still, if you navigate over to any of the two manufacturers’ websites, you will see an automotive portfolio as exciting as a fleet of old Daewoos and Peugeots. Which, coincidentally, is exactly what they are.
Best leave it to Lebanon to cover the exciting bit, then. Although our first glimpse into the world of Lebanese car conception was that abomination they called the Frem F1 we first saw in 2008, we are hoping that the extremely sour taste left in our mouth (and the fact we needed to wash our eyes out with turpentine) won’t completely smudge our future expectations of Lebanese car design and development.
After all, plenty of notable figures in the automotive universe are Lebanese or of Lebanese descent: Aston Martin design maestro Marek Reichman, Nissan and Renault CEO Carlos Ghosn, Ford’s former CEO Jacques Nasser, and racing driver Tony Kanaan, to name just a few off the top of our heads without bothering to do any research.
But instead of old Fiats, expired Daewoos and discarded Peugeots, new Lebanese car company W Motors plans to woo the world with the first Arab hypercar. Since the region is a bustling epicentre for the most exclusive and most expensive high-end cars on the planet, it’s only natural that at least one of them stem from here as well.
The ultra-luxury car market is seeing doubledigit growth here this year, with Rolls-Royce enjoying a 22 per cent increase, and Bentley managing to increase sales by 50 per cent.
W Motors, based right here in the Middle East, and operating out of the UAE and Beirut, Lebanon, wants a piece of that — albeit a small piece to start with…
The company endeavours to design and manufacture its first model at home, catering to local markets as well as the Far East and Eastern Europe. W Motors will limit its first model’s production to just five units per year, boldly calling the yet unnamed vehicle, “the most exclusive, luxurious and technologically advanced hypercar in the world.”
We won’t have to wait long to see the finished product since it’s scheduled for a Dubai unveiling this coming December, before it jets off to the Qatar Motor Show in January next year. The first customer car should meet its new owner by the end of 2013.
Based on these computer renderings, all we can tell so far is that W Motors’ creation seems to loosely resemble the Aspid GT-21 Invictus supercar (page 19), except for that model’s heavy cabback profile.
W Motors and its entrepreneurial founder Ralph Debbas have cleverly allied with established industry names such as Magna Steyr Torino, a subsidiary of the company that currently manufactures the Mini Countryman, Peugeot RCZ, Mercedes Benz G-Class, and the aluminium bodies for the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG.
Another contributor to the Arab hypercar project is famed German Porsche tuner and outright manufacturer RUF Automobile, which leaves us wondering whether W Motors will use one of RUF’s powerplants, such as a flat-six 750bhp 3.7-litre, the downtuned 685bhp version, or perhaps even the 550bhp 4.5-litre V8.
“We will be launching two different lines of vehicles, the Hyper-sport and the Super-sport. Our first model, the Hypersport, will be limited to five cars worldwide and will be labelled as the most exclusive highperformance car ever made,” says Debbas.
Quite a claim, but W Motors has substance in its boasts, since the company is planning signature diamondcoated LED lights, and the first-ever application of a fully integrated and fully functional holographic display with interactive motion. Quite a step up from the 64bhp Iran Khodro Paykan.