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SUVs drive UAE car sales but motorists gear up to go green

Consumers like the off-road capability of SUVs, even if they are not likely to use it. SUV in the desert. Pexels/Carlos Herrero
Consumers like the off-road capability of SUVs, even if they are not likely to use it
  • SUVs remain bestsellers
  • Account for 46% sales
  • Consumers plan switch to EVs

Gas-guzzling sports utility vehicles remain a popular choice for UAE motorists and outlets across the country have reported strong sales of SUVs in 2023, despite the ongoing drive to switch to more environmentally friendly alternatives.

Abhinav Gupta, CEO for the Gulf region at Cars24, a global e-commerce platform for pre-owned vehicles, said that SUVs represented 53 percent of sales for 2023, compared with sedans at 36 percent.

He revealed that seven out of the company’s 10 top-selling models last year were SUVs, including the Mitsubishi Pajero, Nissan Patrol, Toyota Prado, Nissan Kicks, Toyota Fortuner, Nissan X-Trail, and Renault Duster.

“SUVs will continue to be a preferred choice in 2024 due to their comfort and all-round utility,” Gupta told AGBI.

Antoine Barthes, vice-president of Al-Futtaim Automotive, revealed that SUVs made up 46.5 percent of the company’s passenger car sales last year.

In 2022, SUVs also accounted for around 46 percent of global car sales, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).

Research from Redseer Strategy Consultants showed a preference among new car buyers for SUVs (43 percent), compared with sedans (29 percent) and coupes (13 percent).

“UAE consumers do like SUVs as they tend to have more practical use cases and also help in off-roading – not many might actually go off-roading but the optionality is useful,” said Sandeep Ganediwalla, partner, Middle East and Africa at Redseer Strategy Consultants.

Changing attitudes

On average, SUVs consume about 20 percent more oil than an average medium-size non-SUV car, according to the IEA. 

A report in February last year revealed that the 330 million SUVs on the road globally at that time were collectively emitting almost 1 billion tonnes of CO2.

Barthes from Al-Futtaim Automotive, however, admitted attitudes are changing as consumers become more climate conscious, with hybrid models and fully electric vehicles (EVs) growing in popularity.

Car, Transportation, Vehicle Electric vehicles by Chinese manufacturers, such as Hongqi's E-HS9, are growing in popularityHongqi
Electric vehicles by Chinese manufacturers, such as Hongqi’s E-HS9, are growing in popularity

A survey by Al-Futtaim Automotive in partnership with YouGov, conducted during last month’s Cop28 in Dubai, revealed that 63 percent of motorists are planning to make EVs their primary mode of transport by 2025.

“We know that many customers here are thinking about switching to electric vehicles soon,” said Barthes.

Long-term calculations from Fitch Solutions suggest the total number of EVs in the UAE will exceed 370,000 by 2032, representing 11 percent of the country’s passenger vehicles.

While traditional electric car brands such as Tesla, BMW, Mercedes, Volvo and Chevrolet remain popular, more affordable Chinese EV companies such as BYD, Geely, Hongqi, Nio and Xpeng are expected to gain market share over the short term.

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