“It’s the gold of the garage”: Bentleys, Bugattis, Ferraris and Lamborghinis become investment vehicles in the Persian Gulf

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On a typical Friday night, some of the world’s fanciest cars can be seen crawling along an approximately 16-mile stretch of road from Jumeirah Beach to Dubai. Bentleys stop next to Bugatti; there are Ferraris and Lamborghinis.

In heavy traffic, most don’t accelerate any further than the next brake light, but for many of their owners, driving isn’t necessarily the goal.

Ultra-luxury cars, some of which cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, are experiencing a resurgence in popularity in the Persian Gulf. The area’s wealthy sheikhs, wealthy locals, and well-paid expats splurge in relatively rare vehicles, as well as designer jewelry, bespoke yachts, and penthouses in London and New York.

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bought a 500-year-old masterpiece by Leonardo da Vinci in November for a record $ 450.3 million, the Wall Street Journal reported on the week. last.

A McLaren 720S vehicle at a dealership in Newport Beach, Calif., Earlier this year.


Photo:

Patrick T. Fallon / Bloomberg News

McLaren Automotive Ltd. recently created a unique version of their latest 720S car for a customer in the United Arab Emirates. Finished in satin black with golden highlights, the vehicle features a 24k gold engine heat shield, gold painted wheels, and Arabic calligraphy evoking the Dubai skyline on the air brake. The price? Half a million dollars.

“You are unlikely to find a McLaren in your rearview mirror at a traffic light,” said Andreas Bareis, McLaren managing director for the Middle East, Africa and Latin America, referring to the Gulf market. “It’s a big draw.”

Lavish displays of wealth are everywhere linked to social status. But the bloc of oil-exporting Gulf countries has emerged as the world’s largest market for luxury cars – most costing at least $ 250,000 – on a per capita purchase basis, according to executives at several of the luxury car makers that follow. global sales data. The United States and China remain the largest markets overall for these automobiles.

The tendency for many limited edition vehicles to rise in value has made them even more attractive in the otherwise volatile investment climate of the Gulf region, which is largely the result of volatile crude prices as well as political conflicts and a massive anti-corruption campaign in Saudi Arabia. .

“When you buy [cars] at the top of the market, these are investments, ”said Christopher Sheppard, Managing Director of Aston Martin Middle East and North Africa. “They appreciate the assets.”

An Aston Martin Vantage Zagato, for example, which cost around $ 440,000 in 2013, is now changing hands at over $ 1.1 million, Mr. Sheppard said.

Demand for the high end contrasts with relatively weak auto sales across the Gulf region. A sharp drop in the price of oil since mid-2014 has forced Gulf countries to cut public spending and adopt austerity measures, such as removing fuel subsidies. The region’s overall new car market shrank nearly 20% last year and sales are down so far in 2017, according to Autodata Middle East, a Dubai-based company that collects data from car dealers. .

Automakers are not disclosing their sales in the Gulf region, but auto industry executives have estimated that the low-volume luxury segment, especially special editions built in limited numbers, has grown by several digits over the course of the year. the last two years.

Aston Martin says sales in the Gulf region are expected to increase 10-15% for 2017, to around 250 cars. And McLaren expects a 12% increase in Gulf sales from last year, to some 200 cars. Rolls-Royce’s representative in Dubai was the company’s largest dealer in terms of volume last year, the company said. A sales manager at the Dubai dealership said he sold more than 200 vehicles with the famous ‘Flying Lady’ hood ornament, up from around 160 in 2015.

A Rolls Royce Phantom VIII.


Photo:

Martyn Goddard / Corbis / Getty Images

Months before its ultra-luxury sedan hit the roads early next year, the all-new Rolls-Royce Phantom VIII sold out in the Gulf, according to Rolls Royce Motor Cars Ltd, a unit of BMW AG. The company declined to reveal how many units it sold, but a single car, with features like handcrafted seats and wooden interior panels, costs at least half a million dollars.

Aston Martin’s limited-edition Vanquish S Pearl, with mother-of-pearl finishes on the interior and priced at around $ 450,000, sold all 10 units made when it launched in the Gulf in November, according to the company. .

A fully restored 1965 DB5 Volante – a classic car made famous in films starring fictional British spy James Bond – has two unidentified people from the Gulf offering more than $ 2.2 million each to own it, said Aston Martin.

“It’s garage gold,” said Bodo Buschmann, founder and managing director of the Brabus Group, which customizes high-performance vehicles, referencing classic cars, some of which cost more than a million dollars. “Prices are increasing every day,” he said.

Write to Nikhil Lohade at Nikhil.Lohade@wsj.com

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