Ford Promoting Female Drivers in Saudi Arabia, Gifts Mustang GT to Activist (As Others Remain Jailed)

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
ford promoting female drivers in saudi arabia gifts mustang gt to activist as

The women of Saudi Arabia have been under a strict no-driving ban for the last 61 years but, thanks to a decree by King Salman, they’re back behind the wheel. Getting to that point was not easy, however. Leading up to the ban’s repeal, female activists spent years driving against the law in protest and speaking out for their right to do so. Among them was prominent women’s rights activist and retired professor Sahar Hasan Nasif, who was arrested in 2013 after posting a video of herself driving.

Ford, which has taken an interest in the cause, promised her a new Mustang after it was announced Salman would give women the right to drive and apply for a license without a male guardian. The new laws came into effect on June 24th, and Ford shipped the vehicle to a dealership in Jeddah.

Nasif tweeted previously that the Mustang was her favorite vehicle and that she was excited to purchase a yellow example when the time came, prompting Ford to give her one on the house.

As kind a gesture as this was, the activist likely didn’t need the charity. In her protest video she can be seen driving what looks to be a 2013 Lexus LS 460 (which would have been brand new at the time). In fact, many of the female drivers protesting in Saudi Arabia appear in late-model, high-end automobiles — leaving us wondering how those clinging to the lower rungs of the socioeconomic ladder have fared both before and after the ban was lifted. At least three known activists remained jailed.

Saudi Arabia may be a wealthy country overall, but the average household income remains significantly lower than that of the United States. While the Saudi Arabia’s king remains the national patriarch, the recent push to modernize and give women new rights appears to be coming from Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman Al Saud — who cites both social and economic reasons for giving women the right to drive. Ladies behind the wheel means more women in the workforce and more auto sales, which is good for the Saudi Arabian economy and and manufacturers across the globe.

However, Ford’s gestures in the region aren’t empty. The company remains incredibly vocal on the matter, posting tips for Saudi women hoping to take their first steps towards car ownership and creating a new partnership with Princess Nourah bint Abdulrahman University. While the former is really just a clever way to help women arrange a visit to their local Ford dealership, the latter is an expansion of the Ford Entrepreneurship Academy to include more programs at Effat University and Nourah bint Abdulrahman (both of which only accept women).

Helpful or not, we know this is primarily positive publicity for Ford. But it’s hard to be jaded when it involves people who were prohibited from driving finally getting the right to do so. Even the most crotchety, contemptuous old American probably thinks it’s okay for women to drive.

Frankly, the women in Saudi Arabia probably need as much support as they can get right now. The public response toward Saudi women receiving new rights is mixed. On the issue of driving, videos of women behind the wheel have garnered unfavorable comments mixed in with the praise. However, the negative comments are far more interesting. “The Saudi believes that his sister and his wife is a prostitute, so he says that the gunboats will have sex with everyone,” wrote one man in Arabic. “But the Pakistani driver led her to do so, and with him the Saudi lost his mind in the head of his penis.”

While some of this message may have been lost in translation, the male writer clearly has deep feelings on the issue of women driving — as well as the current relationship between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. This comment ended up as one of the more popular responses to a brief clip showing Lujain al-Hathloul driving illegally as a form of protest in 2014, but it also saw numerous objections. It should also be noted that Hathloul has remained in prison since the driving ban was lifted, and has not been in contact with her family since 2017.

As for Nasif, the public backlash hasn’t stopped her from driving. She has taken delivery of her yellow Mustang GT, promising to never sell it.

“This is just amazing. From the announcement of the decree on lifting the ban last September, to actually having my very own Mustang, it really is a dream come true. I still can’t believe it,” Nasif said at the dealership in an interview with the Saudi Gazette. “I just love the Mustang. From the moment I rented one in California in 1999, I knew I wanted my very own Mustang. I loved the seats, the shape, the [roar of the engine], the fact it was a convertible; I loved everything about it and still do.”

[Image: Ford]

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2 of 19 comments
  • Lightspeed Lightspeed on Jul 11, 2018

    It is still an oppressive regime that plays fast and loose with terrorists.

  • Mandalorian Mandalorian on Jul 13, 2018

    Cars that seem fancy to us are at best middle market over there. A Lexus LS is just a fancy Camry really ;)

  • Darren Mertz In 2000, after reading the glowing reviews from c/d in 1998, I decided that was the car for me (yep, it took me 2 years to make up my mind). I found a 1999 with 24k on the clock at a local Volvo dealership. I think the salesman was more impressed with it than I was. It was everything I had hoped for. Comfortable, stylish, roomy, refined, efficient, flexible, ... I can't think of more superlatives right now but there are likely more. I had that car until just last year at this time. A red light runner t-boned me and my partner who was in the passenger seat. The cops estimate the other driver hit us at about 50 mph - on a city street. My partner wasn't visibly injured (when the seat air bag went off it shoved him out of the way of the intruding car) but his hip was rather tweaked. My car, though, was gone. I cried like a baby when they towed it away. I ruminated for months trying to decide how to replace it. Luckily, we had my 1998 SAAB 9000 as a spare car to use. I decided early on that there would be no new car considered. I loathe touch screens. I'm also not a fan of climate control. Months went by. I decided to keep looking for another B5 Passat. As the author wrote, the B5.5 just looked 'over done'. October this past year I found my Cinderella slipper - an early 2001. Same silver color. Same black leather interior. Same 1.8T engine. Same 5 speed manual transmission. I was happier than a pig in sh!t. But a little sad also. I had replaced my baby. But life goes on. I drive it every day to work which takes me over some rather twisty freeway ramps. I love the light snarel as I charge up some steep hills on my way home. So, I'm a dyed-in-the-wool Passat guy.
  • Paul Mezhir As awful as the styling was on these cars, they were beautifully assembled and extremely well finished for the day. The doors closed solidly, the ride was extremely quiet and the absence of squeaks and rattles was commendable. As for styling? Everything's beautiful in it's own way.....except for the VI's proportions were just odd: the passenger compartment and wheelbase seemed to be way too short, especially compared to the VI sedan. Even the short-lived Town Coupe had much better proportions. None of the fox-body Lincolns could compare to the beautiful proportions of the Mark was the epitome of long, low, sleek and elegant. The proportions were just about perfect from every angle.
  • ToolGuy Silhouetting yourself on a ridge like that is an excellent way to get yourself shot ( Skylining)."Don't you know there's a special military operation on?"
  • ToolGuy When Farley says “like the Millennium Falcon” he means "fully updatable" and "constantly improving" -- it's right there in the Car and Driver article (and makes perfect sense).
  • Master Baiter New slogan in the age of Ford EVs:FoundOnRoadDischarged