Saudi luxury car sales strong despite global crisis
By Asma Alsharif
JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia (Reuters) - Recession fears may be gripping much of the global economy, but in the world's largest oil exporter Saudi Arabia car manufacturers are betting on more big spending.
Traders at a luxury car exhibition in the Red Sea city of Jeddah said sales are holding up and are expected to increase in a country of 25 million, whose economy has boomed in recent years as the oil price soared to record levels.
"The luxury car market in Saudi Arabia is the biggest one in the Gulf region, so for the BMW group it is the potential market focus," said Reiner Braun, sales director at Mohamed Yousuf Naghi Motors which imports BMW and other cars.
"The global crisis will certainly have an impact on all markets worldwide but ... the Middle East will probably be the most stable (market)."
The price of oil dipped below $70 a barrel this month, 50 percent down from record levels earlier this year, raising concerns about reduced Saudi revenues. But the government is still forecasting growth for this year and 2009.
"Most of our customers in the region are not influenced by such trends," said Christian von Koenigsegg, head of Sweden's Koenigsegg Automotive, who was in Jeddah to display a car with a 1.5 million euro ($1.87 million) price tag.
"I think the market will stabilize in the next few months and this segment is hopefully kept untouched by the situation," von Koenigsegg said.
While ordinary Saudis have suffered over the past year as inflation soared to 30-year highs, the kingdom's elite have continued to prosper. Continued...