Roland Berger signals mixed progress across region’s mobility landscape

02 July 2021 3 min. read
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Autonomous vehicles are set to take hold of the Middle East mobility market, although electrification in the region lags far behind global figures. This is according to new Roland Berger analysis. 

Roland Berger’s biannual Automotive Disruption Radar draws on a range of historical and current data sources to understand the mobility landscape in 18 countries across 26 indicators – spanning key themes of customer interest, regulation, technology, infrastructure and industry activity. 

The good news at a global level is that Covid-19 and its economic repercussions have left the automotive sector undeterred. “The automotive industry continues to focus on innovation even though the economic environment remains tense in the pandemic,” explained Rene Seyger, managing partner at Roland Berger Middle East. 

Growing demand: Interest in buying an electric vehicle rose markedly in all but one ADR country during 2020

“The four big trends – new mobility, autonomous driving, digitalisation and electrification – continue to shape the market,” he added. Representing the Middle East in the study are key markets UAE and Saudi Arabia, where some indicators are visibly more promising than others. 

Electrification, for instance, has hit its stride across Europe – where most countries are phasing out internal combustion engines within the next decade or so. And beyond, nearly half of all cities in focus have introduced some kind of restriction on internal combustion engines – none of which are in the Middle East. 

This reflects in sales. “In the Middle East, electric vehicle sales still remain low with only 1% of total new car sales being electric in the UAE and close to none in KSA,” noted Arvind CJ, automotive expert and principal at Roland Berger Middle East. 

“This is mainly due to the absence of strong policies to push xEVs. Once national policies are announced, the consumer adoption and infrastructure development are expected to pick up quickly,” he added. And there is plenty of incentive to push this policy along: another report from earlier this year revealed that unlocking the potential of sustainable mobility could bring $400 billion in economic value to the Middle East. 

Powering up: Electric vehicle sales have ballooned in most ADR countries since 2019, with Sweden way out in front

One area where the region is thriving is autonomous vehicle technology – helped along by wider digital advances in the region. An example is the share of autonomous functions in wider driving technology patents, which has jumped from just over 1% in 2015 to nearly 5% this year. 

“The amount of technological progress we have seen in autonomous driving is remarkable, as the steady rise in patents indicates,” explained Roland Berger Middle East automotive head Santiago Castillo, who also noted other favourable developments in enabling technology

“In the Middle East, especially in the UAE and KSA, the commercialisation of 5G services has taken them a step closer to the launch of fully autonomous solutions.” 

The UAE is now leading the charge for a full-fledged autonomous push – having already set up a regulatory framework in 2017, with plans to launch autonomous passenger transport by late 2021. Per the researchers, Dubai hopes to reach 25% self-driving penetration across its transportation landscape by 2030.

More information? Check Roland Berger's Automotive Disruption Radar platform for in-depth analysis.