Emi­rati swaps SUV for Toy­ota Prius hy­brid

7 Days in Dubai - - BUSINESS - Si­mon@7days.ae

Mo­hammed Al­falasi used to drive a sporty SUV, with a 4.8-litre en­gine and plenty of horse­power. Now he drives a Toy­ota Prius.

Al­falasi, who is Emi­rati, is one of the first peo­ple in the UAE to have snapped up the iconic hy­brid, which made its long-awaited de­but in the coun­try a few months back - 19 years af­ter it was orig­i­nally launched.

The de­ci­sion by Toy­ota and dis­trib­u­tor Al Fut­taim Mo­tors to fi­nally bring the car - which is pow­ered by both a petrol en­gine and elec­tric mo­tor - to the UAE il­lus­trates how the mar­ket is chang­ing, even with petrol prices still rel­a­tively low.

Last month, Maj Gen Mo­hammed Saif Al Zafeen, Head of the Fed­eral Traf­fic Coun­cil, said the coun­cil has rec­om­mended ex­empt­ing driv­ers of hy­brid and other en­vi­ron­men­tal­lyfriendly cars from reg­is­tra­tion fees.

What, though, con­vinced Al­falasi to get a hy­brid?

“I sold one car to buy the Prius, it was my daily driver. I had a 4.8-litre sports SUV,” he said. “Own­ing an SUV in the UAE is a pop­u­lar choice and I was not con­vinced with the hy­brid op­tions avail­able, as there wasn’t any­thing that is worth buy­ing un­til the new Prius was re­leased.”

What did his friends and fam­ily think?

“My friends were shocked in the be­gin­ning be­cause they didn’t ex­pect the tran­si­tion from an SUV to the Prius,” he said.

“When they saw the car some of them thought that this is also a good car for their busi­ness.”

Al­falasi added: “When I visit my kids’ school some peo­ple take no­tice of this car. The car also looks unique and some peo­ple take no­tice of that too. Also from in­side some­one told me it looks like a space­ship.” The Prius is one of the few hy­brids that has been de­signed from scratch, rather be­ing adapted from an ex­ist­ing model, which is why it stands out. Does Al­falasi, though, miss his SUV? “The driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence [of the Prius] is very in­ter­est­ing be­cause al­though it is a hy­brid it still drives like a nor­mal car, you don’t re­ally miss the real driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence you get from driv­ing an­other car,” he said. At the Prius launch in Fe­bru­ary, Saud Ab­basi, MD of Toy­ota at Al Fut­taim, said the firm had held dis­cus­sions with traf­fic au­thor­i­ties on in­cen­tives to en­cour­age peo­ple to drive hy­brids, such as Sa­lik re­lief. But what does Al­falasi think will con­vince peo­ple to get be­hind the wheel? He said: “It is very im­por­tant we build a bright fu­ture for them and it starts with us, small steps by many peo­ple makes a big dif­fer­ence. Hy­brid should also come in op­tions that sat­isfy the younger gen­er­a­tions to en­tice them.”

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