The plethora of natives of foreign lands that have come to the region to seek fame and fortune gives rise to many studies, some laced with humour. In the past decades, I have had a lot of time to witness particular specifics while driving on our streets and roads here in Saudi Arabia. And so, the next time you’re in your vehicle on the road and feeling a little smug about your anonymity, think again! Your car will most likely betray a lot about yourself.
After all, this is a theory I have been working on, and while it has not been published in any of the trade publications on human nature and should be taken with a grain of salt, I am fairly comfortable with the degree of exactness. Before I begin, I would like to stress that this is just one person’s observation and in no way should be taken as a generalisation of a whole group of people. I would also like to emphasise that humour rather than malice is the impetus behind this observation.
And so to begin with, I can somewhat predict that most of the large GMC Suburban or ‘GIMS’ (as they are popularly referred to here) Saudi owners are civil servants and tend to have large families.
Mercedes owners on the other hand are a more varied lot. Our northern neighbours in Syria, Jordan, and Lebanon prefer the middle-range models. Other models have two distinct types of owners. If the vehicle you notice on the road is fairly new, but caked with dust and littered in the interior, chances are the owner had made a killing in the real estate market a few months ago, bought the car, spent the remainder of his money on a couple of trips, and now does not have the resources to maintain his possession!
Western expatriate’s choice of transportation
Four-wheel drives or SUVs (sport utility vehicles) are the western expatriate’s choice of transportation. Maybe it is because of the inaccurate and outdated orientation they receive in their home countries on our road conditions before their arrival here. Or could it be that they know something we don’t? Saudi owners of such vehicles tend to be strong, independent and macho type ‘A’s. Some Saudis also happen to favour such vehicles in an attempt to disguise their inadequacies.
Cadillac and other large luxury limousine owners are caring and concerned husbands and fathers. After all, it is their families who occupy the back seats of these large and heavy vehicles, and shouldn’t they deserve that extra room and smooth ride as they are being chauffeured around? The rigid and unforgiving suspension of the German imports does not glide as smoothly over our roads.
Fiats are mostly driven by our western neighbours from the land of the pyramids; while Toyota and Mazda 4-cylinders are preferred by our friends from the subcontinent (India and Pakistan). The white or red colour is the colour of choice. Smart choices considering that petroleum prices keep going up. Those from the further east gravitate towards Datsun’s and Hondas.
The Swedish imports suggest a higher degree of education among their owners, obviously well-read and conscious of development trends in safety, while the increased popularity of Hyundai’s, Kia’s, and other Korean imports in recent years is a sure sign of a booming economy. Lexus owners seem to be in search of something, … possibly fulfilment; while Beamers (BMW’s) are of another long-gone era. Remember the yuppies …?
American full-size sedans are owned by those willing to play it safe and stay within some norm. They would prefer not to take chances, and that usually applies to other facets of their lives. The larger Fords and Chevrolets are replacements for ‘ships of the desert’ and have generated a remarkable degree of brand loyalty.
Ferraris, Lamborghinis, and Porches may perhaps suggest to some that the owner did not have to work to own such a vehicle, and in some cases owns not one but all three of these models! Bentleys and Rolls are the choices of the ostentatious, while Jaguar owners continue to puzzle me.
Minivans are a recent entry into the market here, and I will not hasten to theorise on them until after some more study.
The Chinese have made a successful dent into the import vehicle arena in recent times and as their quality improves and prices decline there is a massive sway in that direction. But that would need another decade or so of road time studies to get a grip on.
Tariq A. Al Maeena is a Saudi sociopolitical commentator. He lives in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Twitter: @talmaeena