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A new trade association for the automotive industry in the Middle East and North Africa has launched to offer a place to exchange ideas and gain insight on key issues.

The founder of The Automotive Association Middle East and North Africa (AMENA) aims for it to perform an ambassadorial role, serving five industry areas.

These areas cover import distributors, vehicle manufacturers, third-party suppliers to the industry, people who work in the industry, and the consumer.

Alan Whaley, founder and chairman of AMENA, who has more than 20 years experience in the global motor industry, said: “What we are trying to do is bring everybody together, so they have a professional organisation to raise standards and to share best practice.

“We will supply specialist reports and hold academies on issues ranging from selling cars to sustainability, along with industry-specific webinars.”

Next year, AMENA plans an inaugural Arabic automotive conference.

The trade body has shared a number of ideas in several areas of the industry that are designed to increase progress and market share, in a currently shrinking market.

Initiatives under review include increasing revenue by diversifying into new product areas, a strategy followed by Gargash Motors in the UAE, which has established a division to sell engine oils and heavy machinery.

The quality of staff must also be improved, by rooting out non-performers, the association says.

Whaley added: “What the market needs to do in the region is to build up the experience of its brands.

“It’s important that there is a lot of emphasis on the consumer. It’s not just about meeting a customer in the showrooms; what about customer loyalty programmes? How are we going to exceed their expectations? Social media in the region is also not strong.”

A regional boost for the industry arrived recently with the decision in Saudi Arabia to allow women to drive, which could boost vehicle demand.

AMENA estimates this could result in three million new drivers, creating several new opportunities for manufacturers and importers to realign their businesses to make the most of the market shift.

This will not just effect car sales, but also the business volumes of insurance suppliers, driving schools and auto loans.

The industry must also adapt to the development of new technologies, the introduction of electric and hybrid vehicles and the impact of technologies such as artificial intelligence and automated driving.

Additionally, attitudes to car ownership are changing, with a greater focus on the very low levels of utilisation of private cars, which is typically four hours a day.

AMENA says market leaders will have to take note of the rise of ride hailing through companies such as Uber, along with car subscription services and part-ownership schemes, which encourage a move away from car ownership.

Whaley said: “Industry changes have to be embraced; it’s not business as usual. Find out what is happening with your clients and prepare your organisation for change. You will not survive the traditional way.”