Car Competition Begins as Rival Ford Importer Revs Up

Ayalon Motors is opening its showroom in Herzilya Pituach, where buyers will be able to kick the tires and try out the features of Ford automobiles.

Three years after a reform of the car-import market was launched, enabling rival importers to sell and service the same make of car, the first-ever showroom for a so-called parallel importer is due to open this week.

Ayalon Motors is opening its showroom in Herzilya Pituach, where buyers will be able to kick the tires and try out the features of Ford automobiles. Until now Ford imports were a local monopoly of Delek Motors. Ayalon will be importing four models on a trial basis with the aim of selling hundreds of vehicles in its first year.

"Our goal is not to break the market but to balance it and to increase the supply of models that the Israeli consumer can buy," said Gal Granot, an attorney, partner and co-CEO in Ayalon Motors. The other is Ayalon group, a company with operations in real estate and furniture importing.

The fact that drivers will be able to choose Ford dealers is the fruit of an overhaul of the car market approved by the Knesset Economics Committee in 2010.

The reform did away with the requirement that a local import have a direct contractual relationship with the manufacturers, thereby allowing rival importers to source their vehicles from dealers overseas. Until now, no one has sought to exploit it.

The reforms allow importers to import and sell up to three makes of vehicles, but Ayalon plans to focus at the start just on Ford. It divides its cars into three categories, the first of which are models already available in Israel, such as the Focus family car.

The second are models not now available in the country, among them the mini car Ka, the Kuga sport utility vehicle and the Mustang sports car. The third are commercial vehicles, mostly models not now sold in Israel, like certain versions of the Ford Transit.

"Delek Motors can't invest in advertising and marketing so many different models, but we can import any version for which we see demand, even in small volumes," explained Granot.

Ayaon is purchasing its cars from from two dealers, one in the United States and the second in Central Europe. Ayalon is declining to name them.

It's also not clear how much cheaper the Ayalon Fords will be than those sold by Delek Motors. Ayalon claims they will be 6% to 10% less, but a price list they provided showed the difference to be 2% to 4%. In response, Ayalon says its cars will have more features, such as roof windows included in the price.

Granot said Ayalon can charge lower prices because it will have lower costs. The company right now employs just eight people and it has no intention of approaching leasing companies with big quality discounts for fleet purchases.

Asked what he will do if Delek responds to the new competition by lowering prices, Granot answered: "We need very much to cover our costs. Even five car sales a month will be enough. That's why I don't believe that Delek will try to strangle us."

Eyal Toueg