11 September 2023
Iraq has developed a healthy appetite for new Land Rovers
Baghdad – the capital of a country infamously known for unending conflict, nonexistent weapons of mass destruction and the Islamic State – now boasts one of the largest Jaguar Land Rover showrooms in the Middle East.
Occupying a premium corner opposite a statue of the Caliph who founded Baghdad 12 centuries ago, the swanky new ‘triple-s’ (sales, spares and services) JLR showroom reflects the premium market the brand has cornered in Iraq.
The showroom’s drive-in customer service entrance, from where vehicles are taken down into the basement for services and repairs
Earlier this year, it supplied 16 new Defenders to southern Iraq’s Basra province for chauffeuring around important guests attending the 25th Arabian Gulf Cup football tournament which the province was hosting, for the first time since 1979.
“They took the 110s, which are nearly $90,000 per vehicle, in black and white, to transport VVIPs – team members, heads of unions and sheikhs – around and Basra City Council chose the Defenders as an expression of their generosity and the epic-ness of the city,” Media Manager Sabah al-Janabi told LRM. “This was a special order requiring us to react quickly, which we did. And it went well. The Iraqi team won the Gulf Cup (beating Oman 3-2 in the final) and Basra City Council got the Land Rovers.”
Such sales have sparked the interest of other government departments, according to Director for Central and Southern Iraq, Brit Steve Alexander, who said they have since been in talks with several ministries, including the Ministry of Defence.
Director of Central and Southern Iraq, Steve Alexander (left), and Media Manager Sabah al-Janabi in the expansive showroom
“Range Rovers are by far our biggest sellers. They are like a badge for local politicians and are held in high regard in the Iraqi market,” he explained. “In terms of the luxury market, the Range Rover Sport is the first choice without doubt, but the Defender is growing in popularity and sales are almost equal with those of the Range Rover Sport.”
Only selling petrols, vehicle performance and high-spec interiors (red leather remains the favourite) are principle customer concerns, he said, adding: “Above all, it’s this sense of British culture about the brand that people here love, and the perception of a luxury British vehicle.”
That the brand is now owned by India’s Tata Industries is not well known in Iraq. “We don’t hide the Indian ownership but we’re promoting Britishness, and they are still mostly designed and made in Britain,” Alexander said.
A huge image shows a Defender 110 kicking up dust in a desert landscape, flanked by the British and Iraqi flags
As well as leading the premium vehicle market, the Sardar Group, which holds the sole import and sales rights for JLR in Iraq, is also pioneering modern technologies, importing the first hybrids, the first plug-in hybrids and the first full electric vehicles.
The group is also committed to preserving Iraq’s scant water supplies, crucial in a country struggling with water management following two drought years. Nestled behind the vehicle drop-off and collection point behind the showroom – from where staff drive the vehicles down into the basement for services or repairs – is an on-site water recycling system, where grey water from vehicle-washing goes through five purification reservoirs, emerging ready for reuse.
Such unique environmental commitment inspired a recent visit from Ministry of Environment representatives who, al-Janabi said, were looking for a “beacon in a dark and terrible sea.”
A showroom worker polishes a red Range Rover Velar on the showroom floor
New Land Rovers in Iraq, as elsewhere, are status symbols, attracting customers who think nothing of paying up to $200,000 for a custom number plate, purchased post-sale when registering the vehicles. Although wealthy and powerful Iraqis can well afford the hefty price tags, current supply-chain issues mean no amount of ready cash can instantly secure a new vehicle. Customers currently face an average five-month wait but, as LRM readers know, a Land Rover of your dreams is well worth waiting for.
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