Automobile garages in the UAE have the potential to drive their way to success in other countries, thanks to their creativity and know-how, the organiser of the nation's biggest custom car show said.
And Jamal Saleh bin Lahej, chairman of Custom Events, says he was in fact taken by surprise by what he learned about the burgeoning industry in the UAE.
"There are a number of garages [in the UAE] that are already building parts here and selling them to Japan and the United States. When I learned about it, it was amazing; I didn't even know about it," Bin Lahej told Khaleej Times at the recent Custom Show Emirates.
"A lot of people don't know this."
Custom Show Emirates, which was held at the Dubai World Trade Centre, was staged in the emirate for the first time after being held in Abu Dhabi. It has attracted a large following thanks to creative and innovative builds that has piqued the interest of enthusiasts and hobbyists.
And the industry has a lot of road to travel, with the UAE, particularly Dubai, a pit stop, so to speak, of top auto brands and collectors.
Bin Lahej says that the show highlights the talents and skills of UAE-based garages, with most of the cars fabricated locally; he pegs those built outside to be at a mere five per cent.
Custom Show Emirates — being both a business-to-business and business-to-consumer event — is also a perfect way for them to be recognised beyond the doors of their garages, something Bin Lahej wants to be realised.
"We have a lot of auto workshops in the UAE, and if they are here [at the event] people will know them more," he added.
"It's good for them to show themselves and their power at the exhibition."
This would broaden opportunities for these local talents and, in turn, would give due recognition to the UAE overseas.
"I hope those making these cars will get sponsors or someone to push them to do more," Bin Lahej said.
"They can beat the US and Japan."
"Thank God, even in this time of the year and the year of coronavirus, the response was very good," he told Khaleej Times.
Indeed, amid those circumstances, the event exceeded expectations: Bin Lahej revealed that registration for the show closed three days before the opening, in contrast to all previous years, which shut a day before.
This is a reflection of the confidence people have in Dubai and the UAE's leadership, which was able to stem the fallout from the pandemic in a quick manner, allowing for the resumption of activities.
"It was very successful," Bin Lahej said, adding that on the heels of reaching their goals this year, the aim is to go bigger in the next edition.
Bin Lahej, however, lamented the non-participation of other nations, particularly GCC neighbours, owing to certain restrictions still in place because of the pandemic.
He acknowledged that this was very understandable — and they were definitely missed at the show, not just for numbers but more so for the added variety and creativity they would have showcased.
Hundreds of cars and bikes — from vintage to modern models and lifestyle to heavy-duty ones — were on display. Bin Lahej says that if these were normal times, that number would've easily topped a thousand.