Car buying and ownership habits in the Middle East – are they changing?
InstaShop, Careem, Deliveroo – all household names in Dubai that have only popped up in recent years, yet seem to have become somewhat essential technology for our daily lives. You can get all your grocery shopping delivered to your house via InstaShop while you are in your Careem on the way to work after ordering lunch to the office through Deliveroo. Five years ago it would have sounded rather extreme I know, but today it is the reality. I mean, we get fuel delivered to us now through Cafu, so why should purchasing cars be any different?
Buying a car has tended to be a lengthy process. You have the research, then the multiple visits to multiple showrooms, the test drives, negotiating prices and financing, not to forget the bank visits. All this is changing, especially with the generational shift. By 2025, 75 percent of the global workforce will be millennials, the kings and queens of on-demand services. A shift is happening in car buying and it has been slowly happening for a while.
The first to take on the idea of online car buying was Tesla – you can select your Tesla, choose the specs, and pay your deposit all online. Al Ghandi Auto, an official dealer for General Motors in the UAE, has recognized this change and has adapted to selling cars online. You can now select your car, spec it, pay for, and have it delivered straight to your doorstep.
In many GCC countries, Peugeot is now also offering a new service by providing valet test drives for potential customers looking to buy a new car, or valet aftersales servicing for existing customers, in order to keep them out of showrooms. Customers do not need slick salesmen anymore; many of them know more about the car they are interested in before even entering the showroom, thanks to the many car buyer guides.
The willingness to buy cars online rather than at physical dealerships is there, it just needs to be enabled and companies need to provide this service in a safe and easy manner. My mother had always been against buying her groceries online. But given the recent world events, her mindset has been completely changed and she has embraced online grocery shopping. The same may happen with car buyers. This trend has been accelerated by recent world events, especially the COVID-19 pandemic, and it is now up to companies to make it an easy and enjoyable process.