Saudi Women to Drive Up Luxury Car Sales?

Manal Al-Sharif, arrested for driving in protest in June, 2011, loves her Lexus

Pardon the pun, but as Saudi women continue to fight the religious edicts that prohibit them from driving, luxury automotive brands are jockeying for position to reap the benefits that ‘equality’ and the well known love of luxury brands in the Middle East country may soon appear.  While there is no specific law that prevents Saudi women from driving, their position as minorities doesn’t allow them to open bank accounts, apply for a passports or even go to school without the permission of a male family member.  However, earlier this year, a well known Saudi blogger, Eman Al Nafjan, decided to take a stand by creating Women2Drive 17th June, a program encouraging women to drive on June 17th, 2011,  in support of promoting and encouraging King Abdullah to pass legislation allowing women the right to drive (he has gone on record saying such legislation is not far away). In fact, Women2Drive 17th June has a very active Facebook page, gaining significant attention and traction from national, and international audiences:

One of those audiences is luxury car manufacturers.  After all, Saudi Arabia has no shortage of disposable income (understatement of the year) and with a new market likely to soon emerge (no woman wants to share a car with her husband after all), the demand for high end vehicles has the potential to skyrocket, similar that what has taken place in China.  With the economy growing by leaps and bounds, Chinese women are increasingly taking on jobs traditionally held by men. Along with these jobs come hefty paychecks, ones that are being taken straight to the Maserati and Ferrari dealerships.  Among Chinese ultra luxury car owners, 25 percent are women, three times that of their European female counterparts.  Global management consultant firm, Bain & Co. draws many parallels between China and the Middle East (Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E. in particular) in their shared desire for luxury goods and the sheer mass of wealth.  So much wealth, the Middle Eastern market, worth €4.1bn in 2010, is likely to grow 10-12 percent by 2013.  That is a lot of money to spend on Jaguar, Bentley, Audi, BMW and Mercedes.

Come to think of it, it might be a good time to reevaluate stock positions in the automotive market, especially in the luxury and ultra-luxury sectors, wouldn’t you say?

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