Bahrain plans to develop motorsport industry
Manama, April 6, 2014
Bahrain boasts a raw pool of automotive talent that can be harnessed to create a burgeoning homegrown motorsport industry, according to the founder of Bahrain and the region's only sports car manufacturer.
VMotion founder and managing director Alaa Al Shaikh was speaking on the sidelines of the Business in Formula 1 event being held in the F1 Paddock Club at the Bahrain International Circuit (BIC) during the second day of action at the Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix, said a report in the Gulf Daily News (GDN), our sister publication.
His company, started in 2008 and based at the BIC, custom makes MK4 Roadsters based on the American classic Ford Shelby Cobra that are designed and built in Bahrain, by Bahrainis.
"Our first launch was at an international exhibition in Riyadh and we sold a car within two hours - it was a first for us and it was something we didn't expect to happen, but it was so nice to see a Bahrain-based company at the same exhibition as Porsche, Lamborghini and Ferrari actually selling cars," he said.
Most of the company's sales so far have been to Saudi Arabia or Kuwait, Al Shaikh said, but he was looking to take advantage of the Free Trade Agreement with the US to start exporting there.
"It's a very small business and when we first started in 2008 there was not much regulation with regards to car manufacturing in Bahrain or the region because there's no automotive industry," he said.
"When we go to Europe and we say we are car manufacturer in Bahrain they look at us and say 'what are you talking about'.
"So we are innovating, we are working with the government and the Economic Development Board so that we can have some industry regulation."
A regulatory framework would make it easier to export vehicles to countries such as the UK, where strict rules govern what is considered road legal and one of the VMotion's ambitions is to build such a framework through a private sector initiative, revealed Al Shaikh.
"We are looking to do two things in the future - a training academy and centre of excellence, which can certify our cars," he said.
"Anybody who knows anything about Bahrain, knows they are the most passionate about cars in the GCC in terms of mechanics and how they work.
"There's an underground pool of raw passion and talent out here, they don't have the scientific knowhow necessarily, but we can give them that - and if one of my employees one day leaves and becomes my competitor than that's great. I will have achieved my objective." -TradeArabia News Service