Dubai: A spike in demand for its line-up of SUVs (sport utility vehicles) and crossovers is doing enough to push General Motors’ regional growth into positive territory.
And there is even a jolt of electric running through those numbers.
It’s been 60 days since the Chevrolet Bolt EV showed up at GM’s local dealership, and the initial uptake suggests the model could become something more than a niche offering.
“We are not looking at what can be done with electric over a single-year time frame,” said John Roth, the new president and managing director of General Motors Africa and Middle East.
“We will be watching closely how consumer adaptability builds up over the coming years. We don’t need confirmed orders to have the Bolt in the showrooms.
“What we do know is that GM is committed to delivering 20 electric vehicles by 2023.”
The Bolt EV can do more than 500 kilometres — and that’s substantial in anyone’s books — from a 60kWh engine and a power churn of 240-hp, and all that from Dh138,000.
More carmakers are willing to experiment with all-electric and hybrid versions in their regional launches.
No longer is there a thinking among them that Gulf markets need to first show a bare minimum level of interest to justify such launches.
Al-Futtaim have just introduced the Lexus ES sedan, which includes the 300h hybrid, which marries a petrol engine with two electric motors. The sticker price starts from Dh250,000, and the carmaker claims an 80 per cent improved fuel savings than the current petrol version.
BMW is another manufacturer systematically topping up its options to fuel engines and shipping them to Gulf dealers.
For the moment, the big numbers for GM are coming from its SUVs and crossovers.
The Cadillac Escalade continues to nail it in the heavy and luxury class, while Chevrolet’s Equinox and Traverse are doing so in the crossover space. (For those waiting a crossover with a Cadillac stamp, wait a few more weeks for the XT4.)
“GM had a 0.5 per cent gain in Q2-18 after a flat Q1,” said Roth. “And just last month, in the UAE, we had a 143 per cent gain over our initial target.”
Roth would not be drawn into talking about whether the entire automotive market has turned the proverbial corner. Car dealerships in the UAE have said that H1-18 has been exceptionally tough, and have had to rely on special offers to get some sort of movement.
What of Saudi Arabia? Have women drivers hitting the roads in sizeable enough numbers created traffic at showrooms? “There’s been a lot of talk about what it means for quite a while,” said Roth. “What we’ve done is bring in women staff who had been with our call centre into the Saudi showrooms,” he added. “I don’t want to speculate on whether allowing women drivers has boosted car sales — Saudi women have always been involved in such purchase decisions even before that. But what I can say is we are seeing more online research happening and visits to the showrooms. These are all positives.”
Discussions ongoing for a stand-alone Cadillac showroom in the UAE
With Cadillac now operating on its own terms, it will not be long before the US luxury marque gets to have its own showroom in the UAE and not share space with other GM brands under one roof. “There are ongoing conversations happening for such a facility,” said John Roth, the regional GM head. “There’s already one in Saudi Arabia, and currently we have a 14-member team handling all of the Cadillac affairs from the Mideast office.”