The 2014 Qatar International Motor Show, which officially opens to the public this afternoon at 1pm, got started with a spark during media day Thursday.
At the show, which is in its fourth year and being held at the Qatar National Convention Center for the first time, French automaker Renault unveiled the Twizy, what it calls the first fully electric car to be sold in the Middle East.
Peyman Kargar, the managing director of the Renault Group in the Middle East, said debuting the vehicle in Doha was a deliberate decision. Citing the principles contained in the country’s National Vision 2030, Kargar told Doha News:
“Qatar has very strong policies in terms of environmental protection and green spirit. Every responsible company should contribute to that.”
The two-door Twizy carries a price tag of QR77,900 (US$21,393) and has two passenger seats, one behind the other. It can achieve a top speed of 80 km/h. The car’s battery plugs into a normal household outlet and takes 3.5 hours to fully charge, giving it a range of roughly 85km.
The vehicle will be available for pre-booking in the region, starting with Qatar and the UAE. Kargar declined to provide sales forecasts for the Twizy, but acknowledged that Qatar lacks the high petrol prices that spur many motorists to invest in electric cars and hybrids in other countries.
Nonetheless, Kargar said he believed the Twizy would succeed by filling a niche as an urban commuting vehicle. “Customers are discovering this concept and seeing how it matches with them.”
Elsewhere at the show, the less novel but wildly popular sport utility vehicle made its presence felt. Both Nissan and Toyota representatives told Doha News that large SUVs continue to be their top-selling models in Qatar.
“People have a personal craze for four-wheel drive vehicles,” said a Toyota representative, who asked not to be named, gesturing to the Land Cruiser, Prado and Sequoia on display. He said the demand stems from a desire to take the vehicles off-roading, as well as the perceived safety of SUVs.
The Toyota representative declined to share recent sales figures, but a report last year said the Land Cruiser was the top-selling vehicle in Qatar in the first half of 2013.
Mid-range manufacturers such as Volkswagen, Ford and Chrysler also had cars on display at the show, but they were outnumbered by high-end brands such as Porsche, Lexus, Mercedes-Benz and Jaguar.
Ferrari, Lamborghini and Bentley also had cars on display.
The preference among autobuyers in Qatar for upmarket vehicles is also borne out within individual manufacturers.
For example, Mohammed Kandeel – the general manager of BMW importer Alfardan Automobiles – told Doha News that the upper-end 7-series is among the most popular models with his customers. Conversely, the less-expensive 3-series is typically the best-selling model for BMW dealers in other parts of the world, he said.
“The Qatar market is tilted towards the luxury segment,” Kandeel said, adding sales were up by 12 percent in 2013 – his fourth straight year of double-digit growth.
That same high-end penchant also applies to vehicles with two wheels, according to one sales rep.
“Even if you want something just for transportation, you still want something a little more,” said Naserallah Odeh, MV Agusta’s Doha showroom manager.
The high-end Italian motorbike manufacturer made its inaugural appearance at the show this year, after opening its first dealership in Qatar last October, reflecting the maturing local motorcycle market.
Four years ago, manufacturers had to first convince would-be customers to become motorcycle riders, Odeh said. However, that’s no longer the case.
“Now we just need to get them on an Agusta,” he said.
The 2014 Qatar International Motor Show runs from 1pm to 10pm today and tomorrow (Feb. 21-22), and from 4pm to 10pm on Feb. 23-25.
Shuttle buses are available to take visitors from the QNCC parking lot to the exhibition call, which can be a bit of a trek.
Do you plan to go? Thoughts?