One Of A Kind: Italian Coachbuilder ARES Design Brings Automotive Bespoke Experiences To The Middle East
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Launched in 2015 by CEO Dany Bahar, along with Chairman, Waleed Al Ghafari, ARES Design merges traditional craftsmanship with tech to create one-off and limited-series vehicles for customers across the world. The result? A fleet of bespoke, personalized, and unique cars, completely tailor-made for the customer. Starting its roots in Modena, Italy, known as the world’s supercar capital and home base of Ferrari, Maserati and Lamborghini, ARES is now poised to make its mark in the Middle East market.
In December last year, the contemporary coachbuilder has opened its door to an all-new 250 sq. m. showroom located in Dubai, through which it promises customers an immersive brand experience and exceptional customer service. The company is also showcasing the newly launched S1 Projects, its deluxe ARES Coupé for Bentley Muslanne, the ARES Ultra Eight 1.2 for the Land Rover Defender, and its hand-crafted ARES Scrambler for BMW R NineT motorbike.
ARES Design S1 Project. Source: ARES Design
The Dubai showroom is marked as the first of six openings for the brand, with showrooms also set to open in Kitzbühel, Zurich, Munich, St. Moritz and its hometown of Modena, Italy. While the Middle East is known for having a crowded space in terms of the automotive market, ARES’ ambitions for the region stands undeterred. “It is like the epicenter for high-end luxury vehicles, and therefore, the obvious region for us to go and open one of our first showrooms in the region,” says Bahar. He isn’t shying away from competition in the industry either, saying, “That is exactly my point- it is very crowded with traditional automotive brands, and since we believe we stand out from the crowd by offering tailormade and individual products to customers, we believe it is the right playground for our brand to attract potential clients.”
The bespoke offering at the heart of the company is definitely worth mentioning.
Aptly named as the business’ “Co-Create Philosophy,” customers can, if they wish, work side by side with designers, engineers, and artisans, to be a part of the creative process, from the first line of drawing, to the final product in the company’s coachbuilding facility. Throughout the process, customers are presented with exquisite finishes and palettes to choose from, as well finest leathers and carbon fiber interiors, paint finishes, trims and fabrics. As an entity that caters to the lifestyles of the ultra and high net worth individuals, Bahar notes, “Working with our clients on such a personal level allows us to deliver their dreams. It is a very personal journey, which permits total understanding of our customer’s desires, and ultimately, not disappoint them.”
Dany Bahar, co-founder and CEO of ARES Design. Source: ARES Design
Though the Dubai and Middle East market represents “about 10%” of the company’s sales, Bahar points out that it’s the caliber of the market that makes up for it. “It’s the quality of people who are important to us, because they are repeat customers, and very loyal to our brand. As long as we please them and offer highly bespoke products, we feel that this will be a long-lasting relationship between the company and the customers. Their loyalty is very important to ARES.”
Indeed, for a niche luxury brand such as ARES, loyalty is crucial. The Middle East customer tends to be very loyal, says Bahar, which can be a double-edge sword. “If you do well, they will be very loyal, but if you make a mistake, they will probably never come back again. But luckily, we have had nothing but good experiences since we opened in the UAE with our first showroom in 2017. All of our customers are memorable.”
Waleed Al Ghafari, co-founder and Executive Chairman of ARES Design. Source: ARES Design
In attracting and cultivating a customer base, Bahar says the key element is the same as before when they started. “The main factor to attract the customer base was, and still is, the desire to create problems that you can’t find elsewhere. I don’t mean in terms of leather choice or color, type of stitching or wheels, etc. It goes far beyond this.” “Where other luxury brands stop in terms of bespoke options, we start,” he explains. “We offer the highly demanding UAE customer a variety of personalization options they probably can’t get with other company’s bespoke services, or for that matter even thought of yet. At ARES, we are all about identifying our customers’ needs and wants, even before they know what they need or want!”
I ask if the company had ever utilized any unconventional methods to acquire customers, and Bahar replies, “I would say, no limits- in terms of what is possible to create. We create anything, as long as it is legal and safe, we can create it. Unlike other luxury brands, our brand in the UAE follows a low-key marketing strategy, which is also highly appreciated by customers, and therefore, I believe it is right that we continue to operate in this fashion and operate in a modest manner. Our products and the delivery speak for themselves.”
Along with Ghafari and the company’s shareholders, Bahar says it’s all about keeping the balance between maximizing all opportunities for the company, and at the same time, following business ethics and principles, such as loyalty, honesty, and transparency. “As a group, we are very driven, and you have to not only have passion to drive you forward but confidence and belief in yourself and your business, along with the people that work for you. Personally, I’ve learnt to delegate more, so I can focus on the future, and taking the business forward.”
ARES Design Scrambler Bike project. Source: ARES Design
With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, this leadership style has proven helpful for the business. Bahar notes that thankfully, they have experienced more interest from potential customers through the crisis. “I think this is purely because they have more time to interact with our designers and engineers, which ultimately, has resulted in more sales- making 2020 a record year for us.”
But the pandemic also brought with it many lessons that the ARES Design team are taking note of as they move into the future. “It has made us realize that the world is far from predictable, something which businesses rely on to a certain extent to plan,” Bahar explains. “So, I would say it is important to have a contingency plan in place, a worstcase scenario, if you wish. Now is the time to reevaluate and reimagine your business. Many companies will be able to survive the pandemic, but I think it is important that they take this time to take a good look at all areas for their business, how they operate, how and where their employees work, how they reach and service new customers, and ultimately operate in the new normal post-pandemic [in the] business world. Much has already been learnt, but companies now have the time to refine and consolidate their learnings, and put in place new dynamic business models which will better protect them in the future.”