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Gaz-guzzlers back on UAE roads

Gaz-guzzlers back on UAE roads

The return of luxury cars and SUVs to UAE roads is a quite possibly a symbol that the worst of the financial crisis is behind us. Well, some of us, at least.

November 25, 2010 1:34 by

Saad Atta haggles with a salesman at a luxury car showroom near Dubai’s busy thoroughfare to trade in his five-month-old Toyota for a $100,000 Porsche Cayenne.

“Every couple of months you have to change your car,” said Atta, a general manager at a furniture trading company in Dubai.

“I want to buy this one because it’s a new design and, of course, I want to impress girls,” he said, trying to get rid of his Toyota Cruiser sport utility vehicle (SUV).

The global financial crisis hit the car market hard in Dubai, whose expatriates were once famous for blowing their tax-free pay on luxury cars, designer clothes and large villas.

With multi-billion dollar real estate projects shelved, talk spread that expatriates who had lost jobs and defaulted on loans were abandoning their cars at the airport and flying home.

As Dubai begins to recover, gas-guzzling four-wheel drives once more choke its 12-lane Sheikh Zayed Road. Ferraris and Maseratis again line the entrance to the Mall of Emirates.

“People are buying expensive cars again because they want new options and they want to stand out,” said Abdallah Muftah, 26, who owns four luxury cars. “I might buy another one this year,” he said, standing outside a showroom.

Home to just five million people, the United Arab Emirates is the world’s fourth-largest market for Rolls-Royce. The firm said sales more than doubled in the first nine months.

UAE new car sales could climb to 210,000 units this year and 240,000 in 2011, according to IHS Global Insight, up from estimated 180,000 last year but still short of 324,000 in 2008.

While the growth is slower than it was in the oil boom years, when the UAE elite was flush with petrodollars and access to credit was easy, the upturn suggests confidence is returning to the second-biggest Arab economy.

“In 2010, the customers’ confidence started coming back,” said Michel Ayat, general manager at Dubai-based Arabian Automobiles, one of the UAE’s biggest dealerships.

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