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Reinventing the wheel: a supercar manufacturer is establishing its base in Dubai

W Motors new venture in Dubai hints a foresight on the new role that Gulf Countries are going to have on the regional industry and global economic balance, but far from being clearly led by governance intentions, it seems the future of the regional creative and manufacturing business is in the hands of an illuminated elite of young entrepreneurs. Governments across MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region have recently started to consider a national priority to diversify away from industries
relying on low-cost factors such as cheap land, energy and labor, a market share that contributed for the last 30 years to the region’s fast growth. Consequently the last decade witnessed a constant enrichment and diversification of the design landscape and this acceleration went exponential in the last few years. Just less than ten years ago outlets and showrooms in the region were relying exclusively on the commercialization of imported goods. Whether these products were coming from western
luxury creative industries or from Far East cheap factories one thing was clear: the manufacturing industry of durable goods was far from being a consolidated reality in the Middle East and this proved especially true for the gulf’s countries. Most of the regional manufacturing facilities were accountable for upstream petroleum extraction, low-tech farming and food processing, consumables and packaging production. Manufacturers of design goods were mostly artisans, creating hard furniture and upholstered
products or craftsman of a disappearing legacy, working in traditional metal or pottery houseware’s workshop. Very few regional examples were positioning themselves beyond that scheme such as the tile manufacturing ubiquitous giant RAK Ceramics, a name that contributed to spread Ras Al Khaimah’s fame far beyond UAE boundaries. Now the establishment of a particular regional manufacturing industry, involving knowledge-based processes and high-end technologies, has been
encouraged. The wealthy city-states overlooking the gulf and Dubai in particular, are important hubs for reaching out the whole Middle Eastern region and beyond. In the past, the boost of the oil economy fostered an open minded multicultural environment and the creation of free trade zones, the latest addition of which is the Dubai Design District (D3). Furthermore, the fortunate geographical location with a natural vocation for maritime trades across the East and the West, created a fertile ground for thriving international
fairs and conferences, broadcast media corporates, multinational advertisement and global events agencies. This is a perfect ecosystem, combined with a laid back life style and a tolerant attitude of the local institution towards cultural diversity, for testing, developing and launching new luxury products that can be easily distributed worldwide. Having such an important infrastructure at one’s service in an almost tax free fiscal environment (till the beginning of 2018, when a 5 percent VAT tax will be introduced)
Reinventing the wheel: a supercar manufacturer is establishing its base in Dubai encourages a niche manufacturing industry in having its plants conveniently located in the region. As a product designer I have always promoted the importance of having such an industrial sector. The globalized mirage of segregating a purely intellectual knowledge-based economy from cheap manufacturing facilities in the Far East proved its failure and brands that were once used to outsource their workforce are turning back to their origin, made of high skilled specialized local suppliers. Much more important is to create an integrated and diversified economic environment that may self-sustain the growth of the region in a balanced way. The UAE tried to achieve such a balanced diversification since Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, one of the founding fathers and the first President of the UAE, opened the Country to agriculture, tourism, finance and real Estate in an attempt to create alternative stable options to the oil only revenue of the UAE. We are now witnessing the maturation of his vision with striving start up in the highest segment of manufacturing and consultancy sectors and W Motors has full right to inscribe itself in such a panorama as a pioneering establishment in the sector of automotive industry with its luxury supercars production and a plan of expansion that is going to shake the whole automotive sector. At least this is what Ralph R. Debbas, 29, CEO and chairman of W Motors promises, speaking with confidence about his venture from his lacquered mahogany and upholstered suede office at the top of a high rise tower in bustling Dubai, a space that is hosting at the moment 12 professionals in different areas. A number that is to increase soon since the company manufacturing facility is going to set its base in one of the leading industrial compounds of the gulf city-state, starting from later this year. So far the range of products comprises two supercar models unprecedentedly conciliating luxury trimmings and sports performances. The Lykan Hypersport was launched at the “Qatar Motor Show” in January 2013 and it is powered by a 3.7 litre (3746cc) twin-turbocharged strait-six engine developing a power of 780 hp at 7100 rpm and accelerates from 0 to 100 km/h (0 to 62 mph) in 2.8 seconds while its maximum speed is 395 km/h. The HyperSport is the first car to have headlights with embedded jewels and each of the 7 unit produced is available at US $ 3.4 million. Fenyr SuperSport was launched just a few months back at the “Dubai Motor Show” in November 2015 and is powered by a 4.0 litre twin-turbocharged strait-six engine developing a power of 900 hp at 7100 rpm and accelerates from 0 to 100 km/h in 2.7 seconds while its maximum speed is limited to 395 km/h. The Fenyr is produced in 25 units per year and is priced at a more modest US $ 1.8 million. Dubai wasn’t chosen for its modern infrastructures, nor for the availability of an established network of quality suppliers, nor for being the capital of Middle Eastern’s billionaires with more than 700 Ultra-High-Net-Worth Individuals, but rather for strategic motivations that are integral parts of W Motors marketing plans. What Dubai has to offer to such a brand is the potential to boost worldwide any media content through its capillary global media network, in fact the Dubai Motor Show and other luxury dedicated fairs were already the backdrop for W Motors supercar’s launch. Another important key factor for choosing the UAE and Dubai is the Expo 2020, with its expected 25 million visits, that is going to create enormous opportunities for marketing exposure. At the moment the productive branch of W Motors is in Turin, known for being the birthplace to the popular budget cars manufacturer FIAT, recently turned into the global corporate Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, the seventh largest automaker in the world. The northern Italian neoclassical iconic city is home to supercar brand Lamborghini too and is traditionally considered a vibrant creative hub for a range of “carrozzerie” (Coachbuilders), such as Pininfarina, Bertone, Giugiaro among other names that made the history of the once thriving Italian automobile industry. The design though is not coming from there, apart from the many inspirations absorbed at The National Automobile Museum, one of the best of its kind worldwide, assures the young entrepreneur. The creative side of the first two cars was totally done in house by the design team headed by Mr. Debbas himself, who studied Automotive Design at Coventry University School of Art and Design, where he graduated with honors. Being the latest dignitary of a Lebanese entrepreneurs’ legacy made him aware of facing a tough business where false steps could cost him a lot in reputation and finance. He is transparent in his assertions «I would be the first one to discourage anyone from buying a car manufactured in the Middle East from a brand that has such a short history, just six years of experience on the market. That’s why for the product development, that includes engineering, prototyping, homologation and manufacturing phases, we are working with the best people worldwide» and continues quoting names such as Magna Steyr, RUF Automobile, StudioTorino and University of Tokyo, names that give concrete solidity to his words, often wrongfully considered unbelievable fantasies. At W Motors they are writing their own history right now and so far, it is dotted with successful milestones that will assure a long lasting momentum: Fast & Furious 7, Vin Diesel’s latest blockbuster, featured the Lykan HyperSport as the hero’s car; brand’s licensing has been availed to gadgets manufacturers and videogames developers. Therefore you can now get a scale model of the Lykan HyperSport on your desk and experience it on your gaming console; Abu Dhabi police purchased one custom unit for their supercar patrolling fleet. Near future plans are addressing a busy agenda that will orbit around the settlement of the manufacturing plant in Dubai. 70 high-skilled craftsmen from Turin will be relocated in the fancier Dubai, where they will continue manufacturing the present models. In the pipeline there are two new models, a SUV and a sedan that will be soon unveiled and will be completely manufactured in Dubai at a pace of just a hundred pieces per year. Another important stance will contribute to the cultural and professional advancement of the whole region since they are planning along with the factory a Product and Automotive Design Academy where they are forecasting to attract a considerable amount of students. They could prove themselves right thanks to the UAE’s shortage of high standard schools of design. This is a very important step that will foster innovation and will make new blood circulate in the creative business. But it is curious to realize that a young individual entrepreneur is going to establish from its own initiative, while the government of Dubai that recently launched the Dubai Fashion and Design Council is offering support behind the scene though it should be in the front line establishing long awaited design, architecture and art schools. At the moment of writing there are rumors about a program being developed by the government with MIT, but how this will relate to regional peculiarities nobody knows. In the meanwhile Dubai Design District (D3) is trying to attract a list of well-established foreign design schools, but since its recent opening it revealed its nature as a pure real estate operation with the intent of attracting big names rather than supporting a growing scene with shared facilities tailored on design and creative industry needs. Given the assumptions for W Motors Academy, it won’t be an issue to mark its territory. If the world of “bullfighting” is keynote to Lamborghini's brand identity, referencing names of models to castes of Spanish fighting bull’s breeds, W Motors is focusing on werewolf mythology and their cars are named after northern lycanthropic myths. Riding with coherence the adventurous narrative, the stylistic choice of W Motors creations is the original expression of an acrobatic balance between flowing elegant lines and polygonal aggressive insertions, a brave step forward that could turn pale many science fiction bio-tech hybrids. Staring at them, with thrown open reverse-butterfly-doors and armored engine compartments, seems like witnessing a metamorphic transformation of a fierce beast, unveiling all of its muscular strength while pouncing on its prey. The number seven, with its esoteric power, is exhibited with pride in several key elements, as a warrior would boast of his wounds suffered in battle; while diamond crusted titanium LED blade headlights (42 carats) are sharpening its vision. This extreme look is reflected in the details of the interiors that are featuring a holographic display system with interactive motion features, as well as gold stitching on seats. Even the after sale service is tailored with distinction and includes a 24 hours customized concierge service. I have always liked contrasting feelings and no other words would describe the emotion of being in front of such discussed creations. Despite stylistic excesses, I had to recognize a magnetic attraction to this imposing manifestation of mechanical power and craftsmanship perfection with the extreme attention to details. I always admired perseverance in pursuing a vision and we eventually have to recognize that these guys, often considered a bunch of dreamers, brought to the market a finely crafted multifaceted experience. To summarize: a car manufacturer located at the encounter of three continents, a high-tech facility in a country that is trying to project its near past towards the future of a regional leadership, a design academy where real design is still yet to come, stylistic features fostering contrasting signs and a double personality, hyper-technological cars hand crafted in the most traditional European manufacturing district. All of these elements seem to demonstrate that at W Motors they were eventually able to square the circle; we look fast forward to their next acrobatic challenge.

Ivan Parati

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