When Saudi Arabia announced in 2017 that women would be allowed to drive for the first time from June 2018, automotive groups didn’t miss a beat and many quickly took out creative ads welcoming women drivers.
With some 3 million new women drivers projected to take to the roads by 2020, Saudi Arabia’s automotive market is expected to receive a real boost, with car sales expenditure set to grow by 9 percent annually up to 2025. This is in addition to a projected substantial annual growth rate for car leasing plus the creation of a significant number of new jobs across the sector in order to meet the growing demand.
Women flocked to the Kingdom’s first women’s only car exhibition in Jeddah last year, and social media has been abuzz with females taking selfies while pondering potential car choices. Experts expect to see demand both in compact cars and also in the smaller end of luxury vehicles.
In addition, electric vehicles are on the move in Saudi Arabia. The Saudi Standards, Metrology and Quality Organization (SASO) approved the use of electric vehicles from July onwards, and Saudi Electricity Company signed an agreement in January with Tokyo Electric Power Company, Nissan Motor Company and Tecaoca Coco Energy Solutions Company to create an electric vehicle pilot project in the Kingdom. Chrysler’s Bolt EV is about to premiere in the Saudi market, making it the first electric car for sale in the Kingdom.
But even more is happening on the mobility front. Ride-hail apps Careem and Uber started to recruit female drivers from January, and Careem even laid out plans to recruit some 10,000 female ‘captains’.
Then there is the Hyperloop. 2-3 times faster than high-speed rail, hyperloop technology is set to revolutionize long-distance public transport, and the Vision2030 Hyperloop, unveiled in in April by Saudi Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman, and to be created in conjunction with Virgin Hyperloop One, looks set to greatly improve connectivity within the Kingdom and the Gulf region. A journey between the capital Riyadh to Jeddah on the Red Sea would take 76 minutes instead of the current 10 hours, and a trip from Riyadh to the UAE’s capital Abu Dhabi would take just 48 minutes instead of the current 8.5 hours.
With many reforms put in place in recent times, a lot is now on the move in Saudi Arabia – and mobility looks set to be a key driver of the country’s progress in the years ahead.
By Fathi Tlatli, Global Automotive Sector President, DHL Customer Solutions and Innovation (CSI)
Published: June 2018