Not content to sit on its laurels as it clocks a century of business since it was founded in 1916, General Motors brand ACDelco is using 2016 to make a move on the automotive battery market in the region. It is introducting a new technology that makes the batteries it produces at its plant in Saudi Arabia more resilient in the heat.
Mohammad Al Fayyad, director of customer care and aftersales for General Motors Middle East, notes: “The batteries have been there for a long time, but now we are introducing a new battery design, using stamped grid technology, as opposed to expanded grid, which is what we and our competitors were using previously.
"We are the first local producer of batteries using this technology, which is more durable here given the weather.”
General Motors began its ACDelco battery production operation in Saudi Arabia in 1998, and today produces around six batteries a minute. The brand commands roughly a 40% market share in the automotive battery market across 72 part numbers.
Its pickups (like the Sierra and Silverado) and commercial trucks, on the other hand, are supplied by a plant in Korea.
Al Fayyad notes: “We have deep cycle batteries, but these are mainly used for generators. For the big commercial trucks we bring the heavy ones — up to 150-amp, maintenance-free batteries — from Korea. We have two or three big customers in Saudi Arabia that use them.”
ACDelco meanwhile also produces blended oils for the region at a plant in Fujairah, supported by its main supply from Houston in the US.
Al Fayyad explains: “The oil that we used to have was mainly for our GM portfolio — now the product that we have is for US, Asian and European lines, and we are now also covering diesel engines. We’ve been sourcing oil for a long time in the US.”
He continues: “In the UAE we are seeing 7% growth year-on-year. In the region it is bigger — 22% — because of Saudi Arabia, which saw a decline last year, but this year is picking up.
“When the automotive is down, spare parts will go up, because you need to take care of your vehicle, so we are optimistic about the year. We can see some challenges and issues when it comes to credit with our wholesalers, but we believe it is going to be a big year.
He adds: “We have been in the market for 100 years. We know our products, we know our market and customers and we know what we are doing.”