“Saudi working women are wise when it comes to finances. However, this is not the only decisive factor behind the rising presence of Chinese cars in the automobile market. The colors, designs and sizes of Chinese cars address the feminine senses,” Osama, a long-time expert in the Saudi car retail market, told Majalla.
Chinese car agencies are mushrooming. Over the past 5 years, the presence of car brands that are manufactured in China has made them the latest resilient player in a market that imported cars worth USD 12 bn in 2019, namely, the Saudi market.
We will go beyond numbers on a short journey to explore why Chinese cars are gaining ground where the competition is heating up between automakers to attract more sophisticated customers. Those customers are the ones with good purchasing power, who look for value, beautiful designs, convenience as well as a good customer journey and experience. American, Japanese, German and Koreans are facing an emerging player – the Chinese car maker.
Even though affordability is key, there are other decisive factors that are equally important.
“What do you think of a yellow car with a black rooftop? The colors of Chinese cars resemble a makeup kit full of colors and hues. Those cars come in yellow, blue, bicolor, dark red, orange, turquoise, and many unconventional colors. Females associate with colors. This is a good win for Chinese cars. Saudi females look for elegant, petite and soft inspirations to express themselves. Colors are the best ones,” explained Osama about Saudi female customer behavior.
“Sharp edges and angles do not exist in Chinese cars. It is all smooth and full of curves with a modern Asian touch. They suit the feminine tastes,” he added.
Chinese cars are now the most affordable in the Saudi market. One can lease a car at an affordable price as low as SR 750 (USD 200) in monthly installments for 5 years.
“In general working Saudi and expat women are more financially aware than men. For men, cars express a social status, that is why they choose Japanese, American and Korean cars if they belong to middle class. For upper middle class and above, men prefer luxury European cars. A small percent of Saudi women, namely the wealthy ones, choose luxury car brands,” said Abdulrahman, a Jeddah-based sales supervisor at a Chinese car showroom.
Nisreen, a 30-year-old Saudi marketing specialist, told me she bought a Chinese SUV after she got her driving license. She is delighted with her USD 21,500 SUV that looks modern and stylish. “This amount of money would not get me an SUV with a sunroof and digital dashboard. This would be impossible, especially after the VAT was raised from 5% to 15% last July!” she explained.
Chinese cars entered the Saudi market extensively only a few years ago. They don’t have the infrastructure that is owned and operated by their European, American, Japanese and Korean peers.
“They still need to enhance their maintenance and spare parts facilities. Some are advancing fast, but others need to speed up their geographical expansion,” said Abdul Aziz, who is freelance car trader.
“Saudi men have been using cars for over a hundred years. Saudi women are the catalyst and potential customers for all carmakers, not the Chinese manufacturers only. Those women are more practical. They look for cars that satisfy their needs. When feminine designs and affordability get together, they will have a better opportunity to be an attractive choice on the table,” said Osama, who believes that with more modern technologies at affordable prices, any automaker can get a good share in the local car market.
Huge budgets for marketing and advertising are coming in large quantities from the mother companies in China. This is making it possible for agents and retailers to sell thousands of cars. According to sources from the industry, some car models get sold out fast.
Chinese car manufacturers offer a wide range of cars and trucks, ranging from as low as USD 10k to as high as USD 60k for more luxurious vehicles. This is the cash price.
Abed, a full-time accountant, bought a Chinese SUV. He told me his wife and mother like his car more than he does and it is not costing him a fortune!