Dear L4P members,
I've posted this on other forums, but was recently asked by a friend to share given the relative rarity.
Please feel free to ask any questions that you may have:
A warm hello from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
These are based on the vague recollections of my father, who worked in the dealership/workshop as manager from 1973 until 1978.
Ferrari, as part of the Fiat umbrella, entered the Middle East region the in the late 1960's under the agency of Meta Automotive.
META Automotive was a company under the ownership of the late HRH Abdullah bin Saud, the fourth son of the late King Saud, who held the office of Minister of Agriculture and then Governor of the Western Province until the early 1960's. META Automotive was a subsidiary of META (Middle East Trading Agency Holdings) established by the Prince after his retirement from government office.
They served as the sole agent in the ME region for the four Fiat brands: Autobianchi, Lancia, Maserati, and Ferrari in addition to Lamborghini. Autobianchi and Lancia comprised the bulk of sales, between 50 to 80 cars per month, while Ferrari, Maserati, and Lamborghini sold a total of one to three cars per month. Sales of luxury cars were primarily to the Saudi and Lebanese markets. The entire non-Saudi Gulf market would account to one or two cars per year.
The workshop consisted of six to eight mechanics with European and Lebanese experience.
The sales of sports cars during the era was limited by a relatively undeveloped road system. There was only one strip within the city that allowed owners to extract any semblance of speed from their high-performance machines.
Operations ceased in 1978, when the Prince closed the automotive subsidiary for personal health reasons.
Fast Auto Technic reestablished the Ferrari agency in 1998. I'm unsure as to who held the agency within that 20 year gap.
Unfortunately, sales and vehicle details are non-existent. It would've been nice to retroactively track down the VIN and title numbers of the cars sold within the era. All that remain are a few pictures taken sometime between 1975 and 1978.
Feel free to ask any questions that you might have.
I hope you enjoy,
And answered the following question:
Did META also have a dealership in Jeddah? Would think that more of the cars would have been kept there - somewhat more conducive weather.
On another topic - is there an official Ferrari Club in the Kingdom now? The Ferrari website lists one but then there is no link to it.
Although META did not have a brick & mortar dealership in Jeddah, the port city was, and still is, the main point of entry of imported goods. The cars would be shipped from Italy to the Kingdom via the Suez Canal. They agency relied on advertisements in nationally circulated newspapers for sales. The FIAT adjusted quota was $11,000 in 1975, or an inflation adjusted $46,600 in 2012. Orders and specifications would be relayed via Telex.
Upon arrival in Jeddah, META would then clear the car at customs and traffic police. Jeddah customers would then pick up their car outside the traffic department or have the cars delivered to their house. The agency would have the Riyadh and Eastern province cars transported or driven to the respective cities. A few of the sportier-engined owners from Riyadh would pick up the car from Jeddah to enjoy the stretch of highway and 'break-in' on the way back.
The cars would be stored at the workshop or in covered parking at HRH's residence in Riyadh. Storage was kept in the Capital due to proximity of operations and bulk of sales. The luxury sales ratio of Riyadh to Jeddah was around 9:1. As for long-term storage, I would think Riyadh's average humidity level of ~30% might be friendlier than Jeddah's ~50%?
There is an Official Ferrari Club in the Kingdom. I am unaware as to the full extent of their activities and will update when I learn of their activities. Felipe Massa and Stefano Dominecali visited our Reem ciruit for a Phillip Morris sponsored event during March of 2011. From what I hear from friends, Fast Auto Technic, the Ferrari & Maserati agent in the Kingdom, seem to be doing a commendable job in sales, after-sales, and customer activities.
Captions of images, from top to bottom, left to right:
1. Father, head mechanic, protruding 308, 512BB, and a De Tomaso Pantera.
2. Head mechanic in a freshly serviced 308.
3. Head mechanic and a 512BB. Note the painted 'Prancing Horse' on the workshop door.
4. My baby cousin with the father's black 365 GTB/4 Daytona.
5. And finally, Papa and his baby.