It may seem odd to hold the first 'Middle Eastern Automotive Summit' in this small, but oil- and gas-rich, Emirate but Qatar is a serious player in the global automotive market.
It owns 17 per cent of the booming Volkswagen Group, which makes it the third largest shareholder. The second biggest shareholder is the German state of Lower Saxony whose Prime Minister (the almost British David McAllister) says that VW is “interested in a long term, good relationship with Qatar”.
To that end VW has just started up three major R&D projects at the huge, new, Qatar Science Park one if which will be looking at the longevity of composite materials such as carbonfibre. Expect further Automotive Summits and a bigger and better Qatar motor show as VW invests in the economy of its third biggest shareholder.
Unsurprisingly, the VW Group dominated the Qatar show, with displays from Audi, Skoda, Porsche, Lamborghini and Bentley. Star of the show was VW’s bullet-shaped XL1 313mpg concept and the road-going version of the Touareg Dakar rally car which, with its production-ready interior, looks ready for short-run production. By remarkably happy coincidence the Touareg has just won the 2011 Dakar Rally with Qatar-born Nasser al-Attiyah at the wheel.
The VW Group also rolled out some local-market specials of questionable taste, particularly the 24 carat gold 'enhanced' Touareg. The Porsche Panamera 4S Exclusive Middle East Edition was entirely trimmed in red leather and just 66 will be made. Just 50 will be made of the re-painted and re-wheeled Bentley Flying Spur Speed Arabia.
Mercedes was also in on the act, with the 500bhp V8 G55 AMG Arabia which gets a unique white and matt black colour scheme. The locally blinged-up SUVs of legend were in short supply, with just the local company Invader showing a heavily-restyled Toyota Landcruiser. Rolls Royce's official importer wasn't far behind with a Phantom in what seemed to be German police car livery.
When the show opened to the public at 6.00pm, the biggest attraction for the locals was probably the Aston Martin One-77. What Qatarians made of the Cygnet parked next to it wasn't clear.