The buzzword of 2020 must surely be ‘unprecedented’.
Barely an article is written or an opinion shared in which this year and these times have not been described as unprecedented.
Most of what I hear about the year 2020 is almost universally negative. People have struggled with lockdowns, businesses have struggled with lost sales.
And, of course, we must not make light of what is going on in the world because it impacts on our environment, our people and their families. But, for me, 2020 has also been a year of ironies.
I always like to see the positive side of things and, as we approach Christmas – the time of perpetual hope – and look back over 2020 at ARES, I’m keen to say that it hasn’t been relentlessly bad.
After all, with every challenge comes opportunity and businesses – especially those in the luxury goods segment – have to know how to see through the challenge and grasp the opportunity.
For example, ARES has had a record year in 2020, our best year ever. And I believe that, while our customers were faced with staying at home, not being able to travel and not to be flexible and free, they simply had more time to look around, to look at our products and engage more with our sales representatives, designers and engineers. And that has led to more sales.
Here lies one of the main ironies of 2020. For example, my highlight of the year from a business perspective, is really rather a boring one but it was significant to me. In summer, we decided to go to Porto Cervo, Sardinia and, despite all the restrictions in place, we had the courage to go and ‘show our muscles’ by bringing our product to the people who were allowed to travel.
Within six weeks, we had sold 12 cars.
It was an amazing experience for me because it showed that, while people will adhere to regulations and rules, their desire to do things for themselves, to buy things they don’t even really need demonstrates the individual’s need for freedom. From a business point of view of course it was a huge success but, for me personally, it was also fascinating to analyse the psychology and behaviour of people when restrictions like these are imposed on them.
Similarly, if I look around the motor industry, my car of 2020 is also a mundane choice. It’s the Porsche Taycan. Why? Because trying to build an electric vehicle that maintains the luxury, the comfort, the driveability and the style of a conventional vehicle and staying true to your brand values from a public perception point of view is very hard.
Porsche has shown once again that it is possible to stay close to your values with a different drivetrain that many say is not emotional, is not really what a true driver wants. Regardless of mileage and range, Porsche got it right and this gives a glimpse of how the near future looks.
Of course, the pandemic impacted everything – I am a big Formula 1 and football fan but I must admit that this is the first time for years that I have not watched every F1 race and I’ve not watched a single football match all the way through. For me, football games without people in the stadium is awful but these and other sports are businesses so they have to go on and they should. I’ve watched a lot less sport than ever before so whether it’s been a success I don’t know.
Meanwhile, COVID-19 has seen the coming alive of esports, whether it’s Formula 1, football, cycling. It’s fun and I see my kids playing with it every day but I personally doubt whether it will become part of the playground of a real sports career.
In a year full of struggle, ARES has had to revise its forecasts for shareholders three times – for the better – another irony! And, what’s more, we have decided to invest heavily in new studios – we will open new studios in St Moritz, Kitzbuhl, Dubai and our hometown, Modena with more studios opening in the coming 2-3 months in London and Monte Carlo.
This shows we believe in our brand, our products and of course that we have faith that we will eventually emerge from the COVID-19 situation. Our customers are global so we believe they should all have a ‘home’ in the most relevant countries and cities – we don’t have a dealer network, these are wholly-owned studios where customers can see our faces, it’s always relevant, it’s always the best experience.
And we are investing heavily in VR technology in studios which can interact with the factory in Modena so the customer can see, real-time, what is happening with the design and engineering of their cars.
For me personally, too, 2020 has been a good year during which I’ve managed to consolidate things and become settled back in Europe after my time living in Dubai, so I’ve achieved more than I’d hoped on that front too.
In the motor industry in general, there are too many highlights planned for 2021 for me to single one out. But, for ARES, we have three new products coming – very important ones in the supercar and the spyder version – but my favourite will be the Land Rover Defender 2.0 which will be spectacular.
You would think that the Defender had been changed and modified and tuned by so many companies over so many years that it’s impossible to find anything genuinely new to do with it. I believe this will revolutionise the Defender market because it combines tradition with state-of-the-art technology, it combines off-road capability with comfort, it combines performance with environmental sensitivity.
I’m very excited about 2021 and we have a strong team supporting our vision. ARES is about to enter a new phase that will attract a lot of exciting new opportunities.
For now, all at ARES wish you a very merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Dany Bahar – December 2020