The Growing Significance of the Dubai Motor Show
Yesterday, we brought you five notable rides from the Dubai Motor Show. Some, like the Ferrari 458 Speciale, were unveiled elsewhere but were making their Middle East debut. Others were being unveiled to the world for the first time in Dubai. This auto show has been around since 1989, but only in the last several years have we seen its significance grow. This trend is not letting up. It makes perfect sense that this motor show has been growing. While a small population of those in the Middle East own more than one car, that population is centered in extremely wealthy cities like Dubai. The buying power of these individuals continues to grow, and automakers are responding in kind.
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In the 1994 the Sultan of Brunei used six Range Rovers as the basis for a half-dozen coachbuilt Bentley Dominators. For a while, the Sultan appeared to be the top dog in car collecting but others have sprouted up– all with deep pockets and specific tastes.
Among U.S. domestic auto shows, the Detroit show is usually the place where the boring cars make their debut, saving the luxury models for the NY show and the convertibles for LA. Sure, there will always be a couple of exciting debuts in Detroit, like the Corvette, but LA is where the performance cars go. That’s where the money is. After the press days are over and the public attends, there will be more well-heeled buyers in LA than there will be in Detroit in January.
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That is a microcosm of what is happening with Dubai compared to other shows. Ford doesn’t need to go to Dubai, and neither does Toyota. But Lamborghini, Ferrari, Aston Martin, and the long list of extremely limited-run car producers? They have more of a business case to showcase a vehicle at Dubai than any other show in the world (short of the Geneva show).
This weekend, we will bring you some of the highlights form the 2013 SEMA show. The aftermarket and tuner exhibition is a place where DIY’ers check out aftermarket parts for which they will save their pennies, and bolt on to their affordable muscle cars. Meanwhile there is a separate market being showcased at SEMA- uber-expensive second market rides. Just look at what the folks at ICON are doing– selling vintage 4X4s with brand new mechanicals at supercar prices.
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There is only a small percentage of folks in America that can justify a $160,000 Toyota FJ resto-mod (as amazing as it is), but head over to the Dubai show, and you’ll have a higher concentration of potential buyers.
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Then there are the homegrowns. Companies in the region have realized that this exceptionally rich class is growing, and if they all have the same McLaren P1, then how does an uber-rich sheik set himself apart? Cars like the $3.4 million W Motors Lykan Hypersport and the insanse 5,000-horsepower Devel Sixiten are mere accessories so one extremely wealthy person can show his individuality in a class of extremely wealthy individuals with similar tastes.
Then there is the aspect of other auto shows. If you are a journalist, the press days for the auto shows were a great chance to take photos and get interviews without the riffraff getting in the way. There was once a time when the ranks of the automotive press were small enough that these Middle Eastern buyers could come on press days and private showings and shop for a million-dollar supercar with ease. But with the explosion of hundreds of new automotive outlets, in the shape of blogs like us, press days have become pretty crowded– filled with unshaved plebeians like myself. The Dubai show cuts out the need to attend such shows.
The Dubai Motor Show will only continue to grow. Some auto shows back our way only have an “excotics alley,” where you see a single car from Lamborghini, Ferrari or McLaren (usually provided by a local dealer). The Dubai show has honest to goodness show stands from each of those exotic brands, with full product lines available and big 'ole displays. As time goes on, you can expect an even smaller participation from the supercar brands in “major” auto shows, electing to attend specialized exhibitions where the greatest concentration of their target demographic is centralized.