Simon Frith, Managing Director of Al Futtaim Motors with Hugh Dickerson, Senior General Manager, sales and marketing, Al Futtaim Motors. Image Credit: Supplied picture

Dubai: Toyota and Lexus distributor Al Futtaim Motors said yesterday that sales volumes climbed 32 per cent in the first half of the year compared to the same period last year. The Toyota brand logged a 35 per cent increase and Lexus sales rose by seven per cent, the company said.

"The first six months of 2010 have continued to offer a challenging economic environment for the automobile industry, both globally and locally here in the Middle East; but I am proud to announce that Toyota has strengthened its position as the clear number one choice of drivers in the UAE," said Simon Frith, Managing Director of Al Futtaim Motors.

Big increase

Among Toyota models, the Corolla and Camry models led their segments in the period. Within the four wheel drive range, the new Prado model witnessed the biggest increase at 74 per cent. The best performing Lexus model in the SUV range was the LX570, up 20 per cent on June last year, whilst sales of the IS 300 luxury sedan rose 40 per cent.

"The overall automotive market has shrunk since the global economic downturn hit the UAE in late 2008. But we have increased our market share; the latest data reveals that our total market share for the period from January to June 2010 has risen five per cent against the same period last year to 33 per cent," said Frith.

Asked for absolute sales figures, an Al Futtaim spokesman told Gulf News the company does not release those numbers.

Frith said that improved customer confidence was "a key factor in the company's positive half year results". He added that banks are "also playing their part in stimulating the market with excellent finance deals". Based on this, he gave a positive outlook for the rest of the year.

However, Al Futtaim has to cope with Toyota's latest worldwide recall campaign and announced on Monday that it will recall another 3,711 vehicles to fix possible mechanical problems.

Al Futtaim is preparing for several new model launches later this year and in 2011, among them the Toyota Land Cruiser Extreme and new performance sports models from Toyota and Lexus as well as the supercar Lexus LFA, according to Hugh Dickerson, Senior General Manager, Al-Futtaim Motors.

The distributor recently opened a new branch in Abu Dhabi and will continue its expansion with a new showroom in Aldar's Motor World and a further four facilities in Dubai.

Overall, new car sales in the UAE are expected to rise by 8.5 per cent this year to over 355,000 units, just below the 2008 level, according to a recent report by Business Monitor International.

25 Hino buses delivered

Al Futtaim Motors, the exclusive distributor for Hino commercial vehicles, handed over a fleet of 25 Hino buses yesterday to UAE-based fleet bus operator Emirates Transport.

The deal brings Hino back into the passenger transport market after an absence of 20 years.

"Twenty years ago Hino sold buses 200 buses to Emirates Transport but then Hino wasn't too keen on the bus business," said Paul Henning, General Manager of Al Futtaim Motors' Commercial Division.

Henning said that the deal happened after Al Futtaim Motors identified a gap in the market. "We didn't have a bus range, so we decided that we want to bring the Hino bus back into the market. The best people to talk to in terms of bringing the bus in the market was Emirates Transport.

Details of how much the deal cost were not revealed. "I can tell you that this is a multi-million dirham transaction," Henning said.

Al Futtaim Motors describes the next stage as the most important. "We have to make sure that these buses are well looked after from a parts point of view and general service point of view." A dedicated facility to service the business has been set up at Al Futtaim's existing Ramool service centre.

The new Hino buses will be used as school buses.

"They [Emirates Transport] have a fleet of 2,500 buses so they are the most important customer," Henning said. "And we have a very strong view that we will become a major supplier of buses."

— Samia Badih/Staff Reporter