We chat with Rimoun Hanouch, the man behind Liberty Automobiles Co.; authorized General Motors dealer for Cadillac, Chevrolet, & Opel, on how it feels to hold the reigns of a 40+ year old company which is one of the largest GM dealership in the region.
Rimoun Hanouch Group General Manager of Liberty Automobiles Co
CarbonOctane: Tell us about your journey with automobiles so far Mr. Rimoun Hanouch, what made you choose this industry and how you came about to Liberty Automobiles?
Rimoun Hanouch: I began my automotive journey in after sales, and particularly vehicle servicing, which gave me a fascinating insight into the operational challenges that face automotive companies. This equipped me well to work my way up and become Group General Manager of Liberty Automobiles, and I am now responsible for driving growth, profits and market share across the group’s three automotive brands: Cadillac, Chevrolet and Opel.
I chose to join Liberty Automobiles because the company shares my passion for automotive and I was fascinated by its competitive and diverse portfolio of models and brands. I have always been a huge fan of Cadillac, Chevrolet and Opel, so I jumped at the opportunity to work with them and boost their presence across the UAE.
CarbonOctane: 2016 and 2017 has been quite challenging for the automotive industry worldwide. How has that affected Liberty Automotive if at all and what initiatives are being taken to soften the blow?
Rimoun Hanouch: While 2016 and 2017 were challenging years for the automotive industry, Liberty enjoyed two good years and was recognized as the Cadillac dealership with the highest sales in the Middle East, which drove our market share and helped us to maintain our growth strategy.
CarbonOctane: Any challenges faced post VAT scenario in terms of sales? Some dealerships are advertising that they would absorb VAT, what approach will Liberty Automobiles take?
Rimoun Hanouch: Due to the introduction of VAT at the beginning of 2018, there was a surge in Q4 2017 car sales as many customers brought forward their purchases to save on VAT. This has led to a slower beginning in 2018 compared to previous years. Lower demand for new vehicles has led to aggressive marketing strategies from a number of dealers in a bid to make up for lost sales.
For Cadillac, we are absorbing the VAT on our customer’s behalf, in addition to offering an extended four-year or 100,000 kms warranty, regular service and regional Road Side Assistance (RSA). This has been designed to maintain sales momentum and mitigate the impact of VAT on our customers. Chevrolet is also supporting its customers with its 5-4-3-2-1 campaign, which covers the five per cent VAT and offers a four-year RSA, three-years or 60,000 kms warranty, a two-year service package and one year of complimentary insurance.
CarbonOctane: Chevrolet Bolt EV will be coming into the market very soon, the only other manufacturer which is already on sale in the same category would be the Renault Zoe. How will the Bolt EV compete given that the Zoe would have a lead start in launch dates in this region?
Rimoun Hanouch: Retail sale deliveries of the Chevrolet Bolt EV will begin in January 2019, and at present we foresee that it will be the most affordable long-range and fully electric vehicle in the UAE. The Chevrolet Bolt EV has several wins in its segment, including largest capacity battery with 60KWh, which gives it a range of over 500km as per NEDC. It is also a spacious vehicle that seats five adults and features a spacious trunk space, making it a highly versatile and convenient vehicle. With these attributes, the Chevrolet Bolt EV is a car that just happens to be electric.
CarbonOctane: How do you see the projections of electric vehicles over internal combustion as percentage in the next 5 and 10 years?
Rimoun Hanouch: Thanks to the vision and determination of the UAE government, we are confident that EV penetration in the local market will grow exponentially. EVs will become increasingly popular as more brands enter the segment and market understanding reaches higher maturity levels. Initial market studies have indicated that a considerable number of new vehicle buyers in the UAE are willing to consider a long-range electric vehicle as their primary and/or secondary vehicle, which is a promising indicator for the success and long term viability of electric vehicles.
CarbonOctane: Challenges you are facing in electrification infrastructure like charging stations?
Rimoun Hanouch: Like any new mass trend, it will take some time for the supply network to mature to the level that gasoline is currently at. However, unlike fuel vehicles, it’s a lot easier for individual EV owners to install home or office chargers and rely on their personal network for the overwhelming majority of their charging needs. That said, the UAE and Dubai in particular, have taken great strides in establishing a robust public charging network, and we are confident that this will continue to grow. With over 100 public chargers available in Dubai alone, and 200 promised by the end of this year, it will only be a short time until all of the Emirates establish their own public charging networks.
CarbonOctane: How many different electric vehicles are we expecting to see in the near future?
Rimoun Hanouch: As proud dealers of two General Motors brands, we can say that as per their commitment to an electric future, GM will introduce over 20 electric vehicles by 2023 globally. GM Middle East is committed to its global vision of zero emissions, zero crashes and zero congestion, and EVs will play a fundamental role in making that vision a reality. The Chevrolet Bolt EV is the first of many to come.
CarbonOctane: What motivates you to give it your best in this industry? Is it the passion for everything related to automobiles or challenges faced in the business dynamics?
Rimoun Hanouch: In the automotive industry, passion meets with challenges to create opportunity, so I believe these two things go hand in hand and are both motivators. While I am passionate about the industry and in particular the brands I work with, I also thrive on the challenge of securing growth and market share for them, enhancing customer satisfaction to secure them a loyal client base, and boosting their presence in the region.
CarbonOctane: What car do you drive and why did you choose that particular model?
Rimoun Hanouch: I drive a Cadillac Escalade because it is an icon and the best in the Full Size SUV category on all fronts: heritage, design, luxury and performance. Coupled with its confident road presence and stunning interiors, the Cadillac Escalade also offers a full suite of advanced technologies and safety features, which makes every ride smooth and secure for everyone on board. I love it for its seamless combination of sophistication, strength, style and refinement.
CarbonOctane: Is there anything you would like to change or add with how business is done in the region related to automobiles? I.e. the lack of lease programs which are more prevalent in North America?
Rimoun Hanouch: The UAE market & region is a continuously developing economy and highly dynamic. I believe that eventually the region will start maturing in those multiple global practices. Lease programs come handy to certain customers and we’ve seen the service developing year over year.
CarbonOctane: Services like “Book by Cadillac”, would we see services like these in Dubai? If not in the near future, please explain why/ why not.
Rimoun Hanouch: Currently the service is only available in some parts of the US, however as it gains momentum and if it is a service our customers have an interest in, we will look to the feasibility of bringing it to the UAE.