Ambitious plan to kick-start car industry in Oman

02 August 2016
Muscat – Helping lay the foundations for an automotive sector in the Sultanate, Sigit Oman Automotive Group (SOAG), a multinational auto component manufacturer in which the sovereign wealth fund Oman Investment Fund (OIF)  has a large stake, has unveiled plans for a sizable portfolio of local and international investments designed to position Oman at the centre of an international supply chain serving the global auto industry.

Sigit Oman Automotive Group, which was launched a year ago to drive the development of automotive-based economic activities in the Sultanate, owns Italian-based international auto parts manufacturer Sigit, which operates a string of plants in Europe and North Africa.  The company has also partnered with a number of renowned technology providers to offer parts for the worldwide household appliances manufacturing industry.

According to SOAG’s Chairman, the Group’s Board of Directors met in Muscat recently to approve a strategic five-year plan that effectively paves the way for the emergence of a future automotive industry in Oman.

“The Vision 2020 endorsed by the Board enshrines a strategy that seeks to underpin the development of an auto sector in Oman over the long-term,” said Pierangelo Decisi, whose family founded Sigit in 1966.

“It has approved a plan for the establishment of two projects in Oman: one is a plastic moulding plant that will manufacture auto parts, and the other is a household appliances facility that will be set up in partnership with a globally renowned brand. Both ventures are strategic to the vision of a future auto industry in Oman,” the Chairman added in exclusive comments to the Observer.

Additionally, SOAG’s Board has green-lighted proposals for setting up an array of new Sigit-branded auto parts factories, notably in Britain, Romania and Tunisia, as well as a second facility in Morocco. These investments are set to dramatically ramp up SOAG’s international footprint, which now includes plants in Italy, Poland, Serbia, Spain, Russia and Morocco.

SOAG’s Vision 2020 investment plan supplements parent company Oman Investment Fund’s (OIF) broader strategy to jumpstart the development of an auto industry in the Sultanate –part of a concerted drive to diversify the nation’s predominantly hydrocarbon-based economy.

OIF is currently partnering with Iran’s Khodro Industrial Group in setting up a car assembly line at Duqm Special Economic Zone (SEZ).  More recently, the wealth fund announced a partnership with Qatari-owned Karwa Automobiles for the establishment of an auto assembly plant at Duqm with an investment of $160 million.

According to Dr Fabio Scacciavillani, OIF’s Chief Economist, SOAG’s growth strategy is at the heart of a “holistic and long-term approach” adopted by OIF in germinating the growth of a future auto sector.

“Sigit has built strong and enduring relationships with reputable car makers and multinational appliance manufacturers going back several decades. Brands such as Renault, VW, Fiat,  Electrolux, and so on, cannot do without supplies from reliable parts makers like Sigit.  OIF’s goal is to leverage Sigit’s brand equity to put the Sultanate on the global map as it prepares to lay the foundations for a future auto industry in Oman,” Dr Scacciavillani explained.

Also pivotal to this strategic goal is Pierangelo Decisi’s international pedigree as an auto industry veteran.
Aside from his role as Chairman of Sigit Oman Automotive Group, Decisi is also vice president of the Italian Association of the Automotive Industry (ANFIA), an influential trade association that sets industry benchmarks and ensures that factories meet quality specs.

All of these elements bode well for the success of an automotive sector taking root in the Sultanate, an industry that is also expected to prosper on the back of free trade pacts concluded by Oman with the Greater Arab region, United States, and the Gulf Cooperation Council.

© Oman Daily Observer 2016

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