RIYADH — The decision to allow Saudi women to drive starting June this year has brought bright prospects to the local car industry as the biennial three-day Automechanika car show takes center stage on Monday.
Saudi Arabia is the largest auto and auto parts market in the Middle East, accounting for an estimated 40 percent of all vehicles sold in the region, statistics show.
The Kingdom imported about 1 million vehicles in 2016. Ahmed Pauwels, CEO of Messe Middle East, which is a co-organizer of the show, said the influx of Saudi women drivers will have a significant impact on auto parts, maintenance and services industry in the Kingdom.
“Car manufacturers will be the first to benefit in allowing women to drive, along with banks and insurance companies that finance and underwrite new car purchases,” Pauwels said. At present, the Kingdom already has seven million passenger vehicles in operation and this will increase significantly in the coming years, with some nine million new drivers expected to be added to the roads.
He advised car manufacturers and suppliers in the Kingdom to stake their claim early in the market, which is full of opportunities. He added that after the car manufacturers benefit, “the aftermarket comes next when these millions of additional cars will require regular repair maintenance, replacement parts, tires, batteries, accessories, car care and grooming.
“Revenues for the Kingdom’s aftermarket was worth more than $6.7 billion in 2016, so it’s already a significant market, and the largest in the Middle East,” he said. The exhibition, with 200 companies from 25 countries as participants, is being held from Feb. 5 to 7 at the Riyadh International Exhibition Center with Mansour Abdullah Al-Shathri, Riyadh Chamber’s board vice chairman, as the guest of honor.