A fleet of fancy cars are gathering dust in the short-term parking lots at Abu Dhabi airport.
The car parks, walking distance from the terminals, are meant for stays of three days or less. You pay dearly for convenient location, air conditioned walkways and covered car bays. That is, if you actually came back to collect your ride. Instead of costly convenience for frequent fliers, the parking lots at the Abu Dhabi airport are evolving into drop sites for unwanted wheels. Flat tires and sand-caked windows prove many have been there for months. These aren’t clunkers. Right now there’s a Jaguar XK8, a Camaro S5, and a convoy of BMWs and a mess of Mercedes.
“I’ve seen a few cars here that are covered with dust,” M.T. Hassan, a Sudanese public relations officer told The National. “Maybe some of the owners will return, while others may have already left the country. We really don’t know.”
Ramesh Menon, an Abu Dhabi government worker, suspects the latter. He visited the airport in mid-July. Returning weeks later, the same cars remained parked. “If the owner parked there by mistake, he or she will claim it,” said Menon. “If it’s deliberate, the car should be auctioned off to the public.”
Flat tires are a giveaway. “Abu Dhabi airport has tight security. I don’t think someone will go and puncture tires. The authorities should consider removing them to allow other cars to park,” Menon said. “These cars eat up a lot of space and it gives the city a bad image.”
Car dumping is happening all over the Emirates
Abandoned cars line streets and car parks in Dubai, too. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) was badly bruised by the 2008 financial crisis. Projects folded, investments shrank, and jobs evaporated under the UAE sun. Many debt-ridden expatriates cut their losses and abandoned their cars en route to flights home.
A check on some of the plates revealed that most of the cars had racked up steep fines for traffic violations, unpaid parking fees and car payments and Salik fees and fines (Dubai’s electronic road toll system).
According to Dubai Municipality, 3,040 cars were deserted across the emirate this year, some found with keys in the ignition. Dubai International Airport is also haunted by these luxury ghosts.
Once a car is suspected of being abandoned, municipal inspectors slap on a warning notice. Fifteen days on, if the owner doesn’t respond, the vehicle is confiscated and taken to a scrap yard where it can be reclaimed for about $200. Most are never reclaimed.
Last year Abu Dhabi auctioned off 400 abandoned vehicles. To date, Dubai hasn’t gone the public auction route.
The splashiest derelict to date, a limited edition Enzo Ferrari, was dropped in a car park when it’s debt-ridden British owner fled Dubai in 2010. The red hot rod, one of only 399 in the world and one of the fastest cars ever made, was impounded last year. It’s thought the owner was being chased for unpaid traffic fines. The car, not quite as pricey as Abu Dhabi’s solid gold Mercedes, was valued at $1.6 Million.
Being in debt in Dubai is a crime
The United Arab Emeriates has no bankruptcy law to protect debtors. Post-dated checks are frequently used as a guarantee by UAE businesses, banks and individuals for everything from apartment rentals to multi-billion dollar business deals. Bouncing a check is a criminal offense in the UAE, punishable by fines or jail terms.
Last May, five expats jailed in Dubai went on hunger strike to protest against lengthy prison sentences handed down for rubber checks. The men, mostly real estate developers and businessmen working during Dubai’s boom years, fell into debt when the emirate’s property bubble burst.
I’ve found no follow-on news as to the outcome of that strike, nor was it reported if these guys bailed on their cars. But you see a probable motivation for ditching luxury cars.
But don’t pin the trend on expats only: a recent batch of Abu Dhabi pound cars included ten belonging to Emiratis, seven to Europeans, one to a Russian expatriate and the remainder were owned by local companies.
Police collected nearly $3 million in the last five auctions for cars and motorbikes. Seems some crime pays out after all.
Image of abandoned Ferrari via the The Daily Mail