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22 March 2018

Automechanika Network trains spotlight on new business channels opened up by advent of women drivers on Saudi roads

Experts advise aftermarket players to focus on new services and automotive technologies dedicated for ladies

Dubai, UAE: More than 150 professionals gathered in Dubai to discuss future opportunities in Saudi Arabia’s automotive aftermarket, as the first wave of Saudi women look apply for licenses in June 2018 that will allow them to drive legally in the Kingdom for the very first time. 

Approximately 4.5 million Saudi women are between 20-34 years old, of which 1.5 million are employed, according to national statistics.  It’s estimated that anywhere between 90,000-150,000 women will now apply for their driving licences annually, providing a potential major boost to car sales in the Gulf region’s largest auto market. 

The expected influx of new drivers on the Kingdom’s roads will also have a significant impact on the auto parts, maintenance and services industry, which was the hot topic at the 11th Automechanika Network today (19 March), attended by manufacturers, distributors, wholesalers, retailers, and industry experts.

Focusing on key trends and issues that affect the regional automotive aftermarket, the Automechanika Network takes place twice a year and is hosted by Messe Frankfurt Middle East, the organiser of the Automechanika Dubai, Riyadh, and Jeddah trade fairs. 

The one-day event brings together key industry players in a formal setting to discuss different topics related to the automotive aftermarket, along with insightful presentations by industry experts.

Vitali Bielski, Senior Consultant for Mobility Practice at analysts Frost & Sullivan, was one of the speakers today.  He expects major changes in the way aftermarket services are delivered to female customers.

“This includes more comfortable waiting lounges at quick lube stations, more transparent and customer-friendly pricing lists at service stations, and services offering children play areas, for example,” Bielski said.

“Additionally, women tend to be more consistent in terms of vehicle maintenance which means more regular repairs.  As of now it’s too early to provide estimates, but we don’t expect major changes in terms of industry structure, pricing or distribution channels. Soft factors are expected to play much more important role in the aftermarket.” 

Bielski said once these changes start affecting new car sales, they’ll have a positive impact on the number of vehicles in operation and will result in higher parts and accessories sales:  “Also, since women tend to service their vehicle regularly and are more loyal to the brand or a specific company, doing it right the first time will become even more important for aftermarket companies,” he added.

Mahesh Bendre, Vice President from TechSci Research, also delivered a presentation about Saudi’s automotive trends in 2018 and beyond. He said Saudi’s new decree to allow women to drive from 2018 onwards will likely have a positive effect not only on demand for parts and services, but on new automotive technologies.

“In the next few years, there’ll likely be a significant increase in demand for new automotive technologies related to vehicle and passenger safety, vehicle health and maintenance, driver assistance, and so on,” said Bendre.  “Being the major contributor to the GCC market, Saudi Arabia will play a major role in expanding the market for such automotive technologies.”

Bendre said automotive companies and aftermarket service providers should focus their attention on new technologies that can be specifically targeted toward female drivers: “Women drivers not accustomed to driving before would want features in their vehicles that improve vehicle drivability and that will eventually boost their confidence,” he said.

“For Saudi Arabia it’s important to understand new avenues for automotive market growth as they will not only be demand for new vehicles which will largely be hatchbacks but also increased demand from other automotive technologies that’ll enhance vehicle safety, driver assistance, and overall drivability.”

Bielski expects aftermarket companies to compete for female customers by improving their offers and making them more customer-friendly:  “Hiring women as part of their staff interacting directly with female customers can become part of a successful strategy,” he added.

“Women tend to rely on mechanics’ recommendations more than men, therefore properly educating personnel dealing with female customers is critical. Companies offering personalisation of products and services are likely to be among those which could benefit from addressing this new segment of customers.”

Automechanika Dubai is the Middle East and Africa’s largest international trade fair for the automotive service industry, and is expected to feature more than 1,900 exhibitors from 57 countries when it opens for the 16th time from 1-3 May 2018 at the Dubai International Exhibition and Convention Centre. 

Saudi’s growing importance in the regional automotive aftermarket has not only resulted in large numbers of Saudi trade buyers being regular visitors of Automechanika Dubai, but also led to the establishment of Automechanika in the Kingdom with shows in Jeddah and Riyadh, both of which have elicited favourable response from regional trade.

The inaugural edition of Automechanika Riyadh last month saw 4,961 trade buyers networking with 154 exhibitors from 21 countries. Meanwhile, the western port city of Jeddah saw the second edition of Automechanika Jeddah attract 4,011 trade buyers meet up with 174 exhibitors from 25 countries.

Ahmed Pauwels, CEO of Messe Frankfurt Middle East, said:  “Saudi’s decision to allow women to drive from June 2018, along with other recent economic initiatives, bodes well for many industries, with the Kingdom’s automotive aftermarket among those that could benefit the most,” said

”Saudi already has more than eight million passenger vehicles in operation, and this will increase significantly in the coming years, with potentially nine million new drivers added to the roads.

“Automakers will be the first to benefit, along with banks and insurance companies that finance and underwrite new car purchases, however the aftermarket comes next, when these additional cars require regular repair and maintenance, replacement parts, tyres, batteries, accessories, car care and grooming,” Pauwels added.

Automechanika Dubai 2018 encompasses six product groups of Parts & Components; Electronics & Systems; Accessories & Customizing; Repair & Maintenance; Car Wash, Care & Reconditioning; and Tyres & Batteries.

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  • 2018