By on July 2, 2011

After Libya, Yemen, Iran, Syria and Egypt, we are back in the Middle-East this weekend to visit Saudi Arabia. A (very dangerous) Saudi specialty is drifting a la ‘Fast and Furious’ in traffic-filled streets, as you can see in the video above. Do not try this at home please!

Now if you’re not interested in knowing more about car sales in Saudi Arabia, then I am very disappointed in you. But there are two things you can do: check out the 19 countries we have already explored each weekend by clicking here, or explore the 154 other countries available in my blog.

One thing I bet you didn’t know is that Saudi Arabia’s tastes for cars are very similar to America’s…

The Saudi car market has not been affected much by the economic crisis, with sales up 1% in 2009 at 595,586 units and BMI estimated figures for 2010 standing at 619,220 units, up 2% year-on-year. This places Saudi Arabia as the 2nd biggest Middle-Eastern car market behind Iran.

Gas is cheap as in Saudi Arabia, so owning and using a car is not a ruinous affair.

I haven’t managed to access official models ranking data for Saudi Arabia so if you live there or know any more detail about this market please do get in touch! This is when my friend You Tube comes into play and enables me to give you a rough idea of what cars Saudi consumers buy.

Discarding camels, it does look like the Toyota Camry is the best-selling model in the country, and has been for a while looking at the different generations of the model flogging the streets of Riyadh and Jeddah. Most of the Camrys in circulation in Saudi Arabia are shipped directly from Australia where Toyota build the right hand drive version of the model. This would therefore makes Saudi Arabia a very similar market to America where the Toyota Camry has been the best-selling passenger car for nearly a decade.

Toyota and Lexus combined are estimated to hold close to half of the Saudi Arabian car market, with the Toyota Corolla…

… Yaris sedan…

and Land Cruiser also solid sellers.

Hyundai is also very strong in the country with the Elantra a favorite and the all-new Accent off to a great start.

Chevrolet is not left behind and should place the Aveo…

… and Caprice, also imported from Australia where it is sold as a Holden, among the best-sellers.

Another US/Saudi Arabia common trait is the love for the large Honda Accord.

Lastly the bit of trivia you’ve all been waiting for: Saudi Arabia is the 2nd largest market in the world for American SUV’s after… the USA themselves. Most popular there are the Chevrolet Tahoe and Suburban.

And now you are an expert about car sales in Saudi Arabia, and you know which cars to expect in the streets if you happen to visit this Middle-Eastern country in the near future.

The original Saudi Arabia post on my blog can be seen here.

This speculation is based on the observation of the streets of the main cities in Saudi Arabia through recent YouTube videos. If you have more information about the Saudi Arabian market please make sure to get in touch.

Matt Gasnier, based in Sydney, Australia, runs a blog named Best Selling Cars, dedicated to counting cars all over the world.
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29 Comments on “Best Selling Cars Around The Globe: Saudi Arabia and America like the same cars...”


  • avatar
    Omnifan

    Don’t forget the vast quantities of the American Chevy Caprice! They’re all white and all over the place.

    Driving is another Saudi specialty. The shoulders are considered bonus lanes and are to be traveled at high rates of speed. Of course, the freeways tend to narrow for overpasses from time to time and when the fast driver fails to merge back into the regular traffic, you remember that the shoulders are not only called bonus lanes, but Allah lanes (as in: if you drive fast in these lanes, you increase your chances to meet Allah soon).

    Driving over there is always a treat.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m working in a poor region of Saudi. A lot of who I talk to about cars are students at the Polytechnic college that I teach at. So there’s that POV that you have to keep in mind since my story won’t apply to all of Saudi.

      Lots of 4-door Toyota Hiluxes around here. Locals say they like the older Japanese made, non-Australian, version of Toyota Hiluxes since they’re more reliable. They love Suburbans and the Mercury version of the Ford Crown Vic. I’ve seen a couple of Katrina Suburbans here There’s also a few different Land Cruisers they don’t sell in the US. The Aussie Chevy/Holden Caprice are sometimes seen. I took one to 160k/100mph in no time and when I stopped I said there wasn’t something wrong with the brakes. The student said it was a known factory problem.

      Fuel is cheap. About 13 UC cents a liter (.49 cents a US gallon).

      When I’ve shown Saudi drifting videos in class students say it’s dangerous and then show me more. I’ve seen some clips of cars flipping and sliding into crowds. One where a car landed on top of someone then burst into flames. The clip cuts away as people move in to pull the poor kid out from under the engine. Insh’Allah.

      They’ve invited me out for street racing but I haven’t had a chance to go yet. I can’t wait. If only I had my old ’64 Dart GT with the hot 318, dual exhaust and heads by Rex Hutchison Racing.

  • avatar
    JJ

    Wow…that youtube vid is pretty epic.

    Yeah sure, it’s stupid and dangerous and if this guy hits someone else one day he should hang (and probably will seeing as though it’s Saudi Arabia) but in the meantime that’s probably the most inspired driving anyone has ever done with a stock FWD Toyoda Camry.

    Also…Tahoes and Suburbans ay? *cough* CIA *cough*

  • avatar
    jeremie

    How they spin like that is crazy. I don’t understand why they don’t flip over.

    • 0 avatar
      rpn453

      They’re neither trucks nor SUVs. They’re not going to flip unless they hit a soft surface that the tires can dig into. Racing tires may make it possible.

  • avatar
    Patrickj

    Looks like there are some downsides to having many young men with income, but without jobs, sex, or alcohol.

  • avatar
    CmpingSmktrd48

    The Saudis also share a serious love for the panther platform. Crown Vics are used as police vehicles (alongside Camrys and Chevrolet Luminas [rebadged Holden Commodores]). Both B-Bodys and Panthers constitute much of the 80s-90s cars still left on the streets.

    After the B-body Caprice was executed in 1997, Saudi demand for a large RWD sedan led GM Arabia to rebadge Holden Commodore/Caprice as Chevrolet Lumina/Caprice respectively. They might not be as prolific as the Camry but it is quite a seller.

    I’m assuming Ford doesn’t bring in the Falcon because it would cannibalize sales of the Crown Victoria and because of the costs related to switching from left hand drive. Oddly though, they were selling both the USDM Ford Fusion AND the European Ford Mondeo.

    Lower strata expatriates are still driving the indestructible Cressida and Hilux.

    In urban centers like Riyadh, Jeddah, and Dammam supercars can be seen prowling the streets in impromptu street races. From Rolls-Royce Phantom Dropheads in lime green to matte red Audi RS4s to pseudo-gold plated Ferrari 599s.

    I think I could fish out some photos as well if theres any demand.

  • avatar
    ihatetrees

    What is GM’s excuse for not importing the (Holden) Caprice for sale to the US public? They’ve already spent the $$$ to certify it as a cop car.

    Are there regs standing in the way? Or is it CAFE politics? Or market research that shows RWD sedans won’t sell?

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      It is an interesting question.

      CAFE is usually brought up, but I’m sure GM could game the EPA test enough to get mileage rating at least equal to that of the CTS. Plus, they could make an eAssist or 2.0T model if it was that big of an issue.

      Importing from AU is a slight obstacle, but if they are going to import the police cars anyway, is that still a major roadblock? GM could start building the Caprice in NA too like they do for the Regal.

      As far as sales go, RWD only would probably be a tough sell in the snowy parts of the continent. It would never compete with the Camcords in sales, but I would still expect a Caprice to sell in numbers close to that of the Regal/LaCrosse/CTS. Maybe that’s not enough for GM?

      In all honesty, I think the main reason we don’t get a Caprice is that GM is worried most sales would come at the expense of the CTS and Lacrosse.

      _____________________________________________________________________

      A related question is, why doesn’t Fiatsler try any harder to sell the Charger and 300 in the Middle East and Australia? Are those markets just too small?

      • 0 avatar
        Bryce

        They sell Fiatsler 300s in NZ and I guess OZ but we have a lot of diesels in those and Jeeps but realise the 300 is not on par with Falcons or Holdens ita more of an also ran

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        I haven’t driven one, but the facelifted 300 has been getting good reviews, even from international publications.

        However, my thought is that even an “also ran” could be successful in a market that likes a particular type of vehicle. Although I guess poor Titan and Tundra sales in the truck-loving US may disprove my theory.

      • 0 avatar
        LDMAN1

        Charger and 300C in the Middle-East? The Middle-East can be roughly split into two submarkets. The GCC and Levant/Egypt.
        You have to take into account high duty and/or high fuel price markets out of the equation (Lebanon, Israel, Jordan, Egypt etc…) A 3.5L V6 engine is actually considered too big or a luxury good item that is heavily taxed in some of these markets. Syria is an embargo market and is therefore excluded from this proposition. This makes it a “no/slow go” area for these models.
        The GCC (Saudi, UAE, Oman, Qatar, Kuwait and Bahrain) market have low duties and “on average” cheap fuel prices, however, at current retail price point these cars are competing with more popular SUV and the next best alternative/high resale value, cheaper 4 cylinders Japanese or Korean sedans make the Charger or the 300 C a bit of a niche or odd proposition. Throw the dealer network in the mix, which finds it easier or more profitable to sell 4×4 or pick-ups or even other brands et voila! No volume for these two particular models.
        That being said Chrysler is a bit of a slow brand in the Region. Dodge sells up to 3 or 4 times as many units as Chrysler on average.
        Jeep was the cash cow until the JK replaced the TJ (the JK’s price point severely limits dealers’ ability to play the volume game).

      • 0 avatar
        outback_ute

        They do sell the 300 in Australia in V6, diesel, 5.7 & SRT8 forms including the wagon/Magnum still as a 300. Sales are niche (due to polarising appearance) and priced as a prestige car where more people would prefer Germans/Lexus or SUV’s. I don’t think they would have sold more than 2-3000/yr, and in the last couple of years less than 1000/yr

  • avatar
    Don C

    I lived in Riyadh for a couple of years in the mid 1980s. I haven’t been back. But here’s what was popular back then. The most popular vehicles by far were light pickup trucks from Japan. These were lightweight stripped models, much cheaper than the ones that we could get in the US. They all seemed to have 6.00X14 bias ply tires. And no smog equipment. They were light enough that if you let most of the air out of the tires you could drive them off road in the desert with no problems. They were a common sight sailing carefree over the dunes with heavily cloaked women sitting in the back. Meanwhile us stupid Americans were often stuck in the sand with our heavy 4×4 Chevy trucks. Sometimes we’d have to go visit a city where there was no road leading to it, just a string of barrels marking the path through the desert every half mile or so. Tough job digging a heavy truck out of the soft sand. I’ll be forever grateful the the old Bedouin who came across me and a co-worker digging out our truck one day. I thought we were going to die out there. He couldn’t communicate with us, but he looked the situation over, shook his head, and started letting most of the air out of our tires. Then he casually drove the truck out of the drift for us. Even with flat tires the truck was still way more prone to getting stuck than the Saudis lightweights. I got in the habit of always stopping on a bush for traction.
    SUVs were also popular, Isuzu trooper, Nissan Patrol, etc. But always outnumbered by the little pickups. There were also a lot of big Nissan and Toyota sedans and Mazda 929s. The Taxis were either Mercedes or big GM sedans. Caprice, Parisian etc. The drivers didn’t seem to rate either higher than the other overall, but the air conditioning in the American cars was better. There was a market for special high performance and sports cars as well. I remember visiting a car lot, really just an open field with a tent, with about 15 or 20 Panteras for sale. And I’d occasionally notice a Motion Performance Camaro or a Macho TA running around.

  • avatar
    wallstreet

    Saudi Arabia will be the biggest Middle-Eastern car market shall the women be allowed to drive.

  • avatar
    pacificpom2

    Isn’t the Chevy Lumina up there either?

  • avatar
    LDMAN1

    While we are on the Saudi subject:

    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-06-22/saudi-women-call-on-subaru-to-leave-kingdom-over-driving-ban.html

  • avatar
    ghandouram

    Hi, I am a Saudi national interested in cars… I also translate car-related articles for a local auto publication and an avid reader of US auto magazines such as Motor Trend. I will try to summarize our market as briefly as possible.
    Toyota may still sell early half of all new cars over here, however there is a public shift against the company…especially after the runaway Toyota incidents similar to VW/Audi in the US back in the mid 80s. Korean brands are definately gaining ground especially in fleet sales. They moved upmarket now that fully equipped Hyundai Elantras go for about 70-80k Saudi Riyals .European makers such as Peugeot ,VW, and most recently Fiat/ Alfaromeo are making a come back( we could get a VW Jetta for the same price of a Hyundai Elantra) Chinese automakers compete with second hand imports at the lower end of the market.GM stopped importing the RWD commodore/Lumina in favor of the FWD Malibu. The future of Caprice is uncertain at best. Since the demise of the Panther platform , Taurus was selling like hot cakes , until the redesigned Chryslrer 300 and Dodge Charger showed up , that is. But Chrysler dealer in Saudi Arabia need to renovate their facilities and build a better relationship with consumers and they might be the next success story after Ford. ( regretably,they have the worst consumer satisfaction ratings, along with Nissan’s dealer).
    SUV / crossover segment is gradually gaining ground. The Mazda CX-9 is the top selling cross over ,followed by Hyundai Veracruise . Acadia/ Traverseare somewhat popular… Ford Explorer well received while Dodge Durango is a resounding success. German cross overs are led by VW Touareg followed by Mercedes Benz ML class. Range Rover dominates the luxury SUV segment. But the big three sellers in large SUV segment remain the Toyota Landcruiser, Chevy Subrban / GMC Yukon, and Ford Expedition.
    I’ d be most happy to provide you people with the latest news….feel free to contact me anytime.

    • 0 avatar
      cuzman03

      I am looking for a new and used auto parts supplier for Chrysler, Dodge , Jeep. I sell used parts to people
      in the middle east. I have access to used parts that come direct from Chrysler testing grounds . We can get
      up to 25 cars a month. Also get many new parts through auctions from Chrysler
      I also run a Chrysler Dodge Jeep wholesale parts department here and sell to others in the middle east and
      ship the parts there for a price that would be cheaper than what your dealers sell their parts for. We actually
      sell to a customer who supplies a dealer in Dubai.
      Was hoping maybe you know some one who would be interested in being a distributor in your area, to compete with the dealer you have there.

  • avatar

    Hi everyone,

    if someone is interested on mexican cars (i mean sold in the country) i can get you the car and ship it by container or plane
    we have:
    Toyotas (Camry, hilux, tundra, FJ, yaris etc)
    Chevys (Camaro hotwheels, camaro ZL1, tahoe, suburban, aveo etc)
    Fords (Raptors, mustangs, focus, explorer etc)
    Luxury (BMW, Mercedes, porsche)

    please feel free to ask any question!

  • avatar
    george10

    Viewers, i want to sell my neatly used 2013 Mercedes-Benz GLK350 4MATIC‏ car is barely used and bought new.Still very clean, inside and outside, full options, Gulf specification and accident free: Contact me through EMAIL : ( george.e11@hotmail.com )

    Mileage: 30,116
    Body Style: SUV
    Exterior Color: Polar White
    Interior Color: Black
    Stock #: 4193
    Fuel: Gasoline
    Engine: 3.5L V6 24V GDI DOHC
    Transmission: 7-Speed Automatic
    Drivetrain: AWD
    Doors: 4

    EMAIL : ( george.e11@hotmail.com )

  • avatar
    harry8810

    Mercedes benz SL 190 1956 for sale, No dent, No rust, the car was refurbished, I baked the car with Carbon Fibre Wrap, We have selected QA1 for adjustable shocks (9 positions) & coil over springs. Springs are also adjustable. Cylinder head and intake manifolds are ported & polished. We powder coated the valve cover, intakes, & air muffler black. Spinners have been added. Heim sockets (ball bearings) are being used instead of ball & socket for Solex linkage.

    for more info contact me: harryrob8810@outlook.com

    Thanks.


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