Driving demand: an exploration of the UAE’s passion for luxury vehicles

23/08/2023 by Ali Sajwani

I recall seeing a book a few years ago regarding the vehicles Sheikh Zayed drove, with the author pointing out that it was his wide range of vehicles – from stately black Rolls Royce Phantoms to open-top, desert-driving jeeps – that helped him unify the UAE.

“Travelling to inaccessible regions helped him understand the needs of his people and framed his vision in the years leading up to the union of the emirates in 1971,” an article about the book in the National newspaper states.

As the Land Rover took over from the camel, the car became a symbol of modernity, success and style in the UAE – and today, taking a quick drive to the mall will reveal a range of vehicles almost as diverse as the UAE population.

And while the cars we drive vary greatly dependent on personal factors such as needs, interests, and financial circumstances, there’s no denying the advantages of living in an affluent nation include driving a luxury vehicle.

We are blessed to enjoy such a prosperous economy, which in turn leads to higher-than-average disposable incomes and a desire for luxury goods, including high-end vehicles.

I found some not-too-scientific data which suggests for every 1000 people in the UAE, 122 own supercars! Compare that to the figure for the USA, for example, which suggests that for every 1000 people, just 66 own a supercar.

It’s also clear that luxury vehicles are seen as symbols of success, status and prestige. Owning a luxury car can be a way to demonstrate wealth and social standing. Your gold G-Wagon will certainly turn heads and is seen by many as a visible marker of success, often eliciting admiration and respect.

Rare and unusual marques offer superior craftsmanship, cutting-edge technology and exceptional comfort. I believe Emiratis – like many others globally – appreciate the luxurious features, high-quality materials and bespoke amenities these vehicles offer. They also value the exclusivity and attention to detail that luxury brands provide.

They’re also an opportunity for self-expression and personal branding. We all love seeing the highly decorated cars on UAE National Day when people really go wild with the UAE flag and leadership-related decorations.

People here love to choose vehicles that reflect their personality, style and taste. Distinct designs and customisations allow people to showcase their individuality and stand out from the crowd.

There’s a strong car culture here, with a significant emphasis on motorsports and automotive events, especially given that Abu Dhabi is home to one of the world’s most famous car racing series, the F1 Grand Prix.  

Emiratis often have a deep passion for cars and appreciate the engineering, performance and aesthetics associated with luxury vehicles. Many actively participate in car shows, races, and other automotive events, further fuelling their interest in luxury vehicles.

From Dubai and Abu Dhabi’s vibrant International Motor Shows, via the 1,000-vehicle strong ‘Grand Picnic’ vehicle showcase to the thrilling line-up of motoring events at Yas Marina, there are so many opportunities for us lucky locals to see and interact with some of the world’s rarest vehicles.

And finally, I think that our love of cars – aside from being able to move around in air-conditioned comfort in the middle of summer – comes from our extensive network of modern highways and well-maintained roads. This infrastructure supports driving enthusiasts and provides opportunities to enjoy luxury vehicles comfortably.

Add in the low cost of fuel, and low-to-zero rates of car theft, and you begin to see why our nation is full of luxury car drivers.

While we are moving towards a city with self-driving taxis and cars, the hyperloop rail link and a definite move towards more sustainable electric vehicles, I think that luxury vehicles will forever be synonymous with our luxury-orientated city.

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