The Middle East is one of the most important markets for automotive manufacturers across the globe. Right from entry-level carmakers that focus on mass-market products to companies with a premium product lineup, every brand wants to gain and increase their market share in this region.

There is no doubt that when it comes to our regional car market, one company has been enjoying significant market share , holding on to its supremacy with authority until very recently. In 2012, Toyota enjoyed a staggering 37.42 percent of the Middle Eastern market share leaving the rest of the brands to grapple for the rest. Fast forward to 2018 and that figure shrank to 31.28 percent, however, it is still a very healthy market share.

Although the general consensus in the region would have one believe that Toyota and Nissan are dominating the Middle Eastern automotive scene, it is actually Hyundai that has clinched the second spot in terms of market share. The South Korean carmaker enjoys a 10.50 percent share of the market, having attained a maximum of 15.22 percent in 2016. Kia follows close behind with a 7.88 percent share.

Sales charts by segment for the Middle Eastern markets (2012-2018).

By the end of 2018, Toyota's share had shrunk to 31.28 percent but still, a sizable share of the market.

What do these statistics tell us? For one, Toyota is still unbeatable in this part of the world. Thanks to attributes like build quality, durability, and reliability of its products, other manufacturers simply cannot seem to dislodge Toyota from the number one spot.

In fact, across the Middle East, seven of the top ten most popular cars on sale are built by Toyota. The company clocked 2,896,848 units over a five-year period between 2014 and 2018 in the Middle East. Hyundai-Kia and Nissan were placed second and third respectively for the same time period. However, the combined sales of Hyundai and Kia as well as Nissan still don’t match Toyota’s impressive record.

On the other hand, Nissan is equally respected in the region, with its SUV lineup commanding a strong presence in GCC countries. Nissan is steadily improving its game and capturing more market share with each passing year. Thanks to aggressive marketing and promotion of their cars and offers brands like Hyundai, Kia and Nissan is gaining ground consistently each passing year.

To the layman, this might seem like battle of the automotive industry giants. However, looking at the trends and also the future lineup announced by all these manufacturers so far, it is safe to assume that the Middle East marketplace will see growth from Nissan, Hyundai and Kia in terms of market share.

What is important here is that Nissan is already offering vehicles equipped with NIM (Nissan Intelligent Mobility). Although NIM is currently only limited to a web of safety and driver assistance systems, future cars from the brand will come with even more advanced technology on offer.

Vehicles such as the Nissan Leaf EV is already equipped with the necessary hardware to adapt to V2X (Vehicle-to-Everything) communications. As part of NIM, the Japanese carmaker is also actively developing (Autonomous Vehicle) technology.

"The much needed boost seems to be on the horizon as early signs of performance of 2019 is slightly better than 2018, let's hope this trend continues throughout the year." Alan Whaley, Chairman, AMENA Automotive.

In this part of the world, SUVs dominate the market with a majority of people opting for crosssovers and high-riding vehicles instead of traditional three-box sedans.

Events like World Mobility Show, Middle East EVRT, and electromobility forums have awakened the masses to the clear advantages of ACES (Autonomous, Connected, Electric, Shared) vehicles. While market leader Toyota is hard at work when it comes to autonomous mobility and electrification, among the top brands in our charts, it is Nissan that has brought vehicles equipped with such technologies to the streets here in the Middle East with the Leaf fighting it out with Chevrolet’s Bolt and Renault’s Zoe in the compact electric car segment.

With regards to sales volume, Saudi Arabia is the clear leader. It accounts for a major chunk of Middle Eastern automotive sales, with the United Arab Emirates coming in a close second followed by Oman.

Car sales have dropped overall across the Middle East. KSA seems to have seen the biggest drop in overall sales compared to other countries.

What do these facts and figures point to? Clearly, personal transportation seems to be less popular with people. Nowadays, consumers rely more on public transport and ride-hailing services like Careem, Uber and eKar.

This is where manufacturers need to step in and start subscription services for their models. Alternatively, with the advent of ride-hailing and autonomy in the automotive industry, carmakers are focusing on pitching their products to fleet owners and operators like Uber and DTC (Dubai Taxi Corporation).

This does not mean that the consumer is being side-lined in search of revenue by companies. Personal cars are very much in vogue today, it’s just that the concept is gradually shrinking. Car ownership won’t go away anytime soon but will gradually fade away. In the meantime, manufacturers are steadily transitioning towards other ways of ramping up profits based on their business. Aftersales seems to be a profit centre that’s gaining popularity as people are holding on to cars longer or not buying them at all.

Globally, BMW and Daimler, for example, recently announced their decision of joining forces for ride-sharing and autonomous driving development. Volkswagen is creating its own operating system and inviting other manufacturers to leverage its existing data to build better products for future cars. Volvo has been supplying cars as test beds for Uber’s self-driving cab programme.

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Although UAE is one of the most aggressive promoters of ACES vehicles, the fact remains that the nation's government is buying more of these cars than citizens.

In fact, electric and autonomous mobility have the potential to disrupt the entire automotive industry as a whole. Cars will no longer be just a means of transport if they could act as mobile suites, conference rooms, living areas, or serve any role that fits inside their cabins.

With a lot of future-forward initiatives taking place in the Middle East, this key region for the automotive industry is fast becoming ready to adapt to the rapidly changing consumer trends and preferences. With YallaMotor’s (an AMENA Trusted Partner) survey regarding electromobility in the Middle East, what we can glean is that while people might not be aware enough about EVs, they are ready to make the shift to all-electric cars in place of conventional gasoline-powered ones. Complemented by the governments of Middle Eastern countries actively encouraging electric mobility, it is safe to say the region is looking at a major shift in automotive usage statistics and patterns.