File photo: A Saudi woman smiles with her national ID at the Bahrain immigration checkpoint, as she drives to Bahrain on the King Fahd Causeway, a bridge connecting the two countries, at the Bahrain-Saudi border Image Credit: REUTERS

Cairo: More than five years after Saudi Arabia allowed women to get behind the wheel, experts contend that the historic move has boosted the car market’s growth in the kingdom.

Car sales in Saudi Arabia last year reached around 730,000, of which 30% were bought by women, they said.

In 2018, the kingdom allowed women to drive for the first time in its history, ending a decades-old ban on female driving as part of massive changes in the country.

The kingdom has since witnessed a vigorous drive to empower women by engaging them in public life and giving them leading positions in various fields.

Auto sales in the kingdom have surpassed projections made before the decision to allow female driving.

The expectations were that those sales would reach 577,000 by the year 2025. However, the actual figures in 2022 already overshadowed these projections, with the sales that year hitting 675,000 cars.

Demand for cars in the kingdom has increased, reversing a two-year slump and disruptions in supply chains due to the global pandemic restrictions.

Car sales are expected to surge to 870,000 this year in the kingdom, according to expert Abdulsalam Al Jabr.

He said that in the coming years, the kingdom will establish a foothold in car making with an annual production capacity of around 500,000 including electric vehicles through four plants.

“Investment in the auto sector is very large, covering manufacture, agencies, distribution, spare parts, maintenance centres, car washing, polishing and oils,” he told Saudi newspaper Al Watan.

“Currently, there is a new demand and a change in the Saudi consumer’s behaviour, especially in crowded cities. This has coincided with female driving, prompting the launch of investment projects to provide mobile services such as on-site car washing and polishing as well as maintenance and software services associated with cars,” he explained.

In November 2022, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman announced the launch of Ceer, the first Saudi electric vehicle brand.

The launch came in line with the strategy of the Saudi Public Investment Fund to focus on locally unlocking the potential of promising sectors that can help drive the diversification of the kingdom’s economy.

The company is also envisaged to contribute to Saudi Arabia’s efforts towards carbon emissions reduction and driving sustainability to tackle climate change.