Karl Hamer, CEO of Adamas Motors, which has just launched a new showroom serving three iconic motorcar brands, chatted to FACT about ethics, quality and selling a lifestyle.
How did you become involved in the luxury motor sector?
I came into this business at 18 in Worcestershire, UK, where I began working with Mercedes and Peugeot. In 2007, I came to the Middle East as sales director at Al Habtoor Motors, working with brands such as Bentley, McLaren, Mitsubishi and many others. Over time with them, they became my family. I became group managing director. Then, in February 2017, I gave them a year’s notice, I told them I was leaving to form my own company.
I wanted a legacy for my family, I had learned that from the Arab world. I was the first expat to do so. We set up Adamas Consultants head office in Dubai and I had gone from having 1,800 employees and a billion-dollar turnover to nothing! In January 2018, we opened the first business with McLaren in Hong Kong, we have both a showroom and service centre there. It’s one of the most successful McLaren partnerships in the world… we sold 83 there in 2019! I was very proud. What we have, it’s our people that make the difference. You talk about luxury brands but it’s our people and our customer relationships, engagements and affinity partnerships. In August 2018, we opened the Lotus showroom on Shaikh Zayed Road in Dubai, then In April 2019, we launched the Lotus showroom on The Corniche in Abu Dhabi.
And, of course, now we’re here in Bahrain. We opened the Aston Martin service centre in December 2020 and today we launched Lotus, with the first official appearance of the Emira. The actual Adamas Showroom will have its own official launch tomorrow. We currently represent Aston Martin, Lotus and Morgan in Bahrain and we’ll shortly be announcing a fourth marque in the luxury SUV segment. Elsewhere, we also have McLaren and we have signed with Pininfarina – but that’s a concept vehicle that doesn’t even exist yet! Our next venture will be Shanghai, which will deal solely with the Asia-Pacific region. What’s important for us is that we don’t sell cars – we sell a lifestyle. We aim to involve our customers. For example, the Dubai showroom has racing simulators, football tables and the clients come on a Saturday with their cars for organised events. At one point, in Hong Kong, we had 123 different McLarens driving in a parade. Can you imagine that? It was the largest parade ever and quite something to see! Our customers are our partners. Coming here to Bahrain is like moving into a new house or a new restaurant for a business. All the elements are there, it will just take a little time for them all to come together. The aim with this showroom is to be like a very high-end department store, where you can come to browse, have a coffee, talk cars, hear about what’s going on.
How do you choose which brands you will represent?
We try to have brands that don’t compete and always ones that have the same DNA and ethics that we have. As it happens, every brand we have is British, we didn’t plan it that way. I’ve built up many contacts during my years in the Middle East. When you know a lot of people and your reputation is decent, you can mostly pick who you work with. But, you have to choose wisely.
Do you have a favourite and if yes, why?
I once had a GP150 Lambretta scooter. Does that count? But no, seriously, I love them all. We’re investing a lot, a serious amount of money. With 30 McLarens in stock and Hong Kong tax at 134%, they’re extremely expensive in Hong Kong. In Bahrain George [Duncan, Bahrain Country Manager] has just sold Aston Martin Valkyries at almost BD1.4 million. We will be able to sell you a car from USD50,000 to USD3 million. So, yes, I love all my brands.
Why Bahrain for, perhaps, the largest collection of premium brands?
I want to be the Harrods of cars, I want to be different, and we can do that in Bahrain because the Crown Prince has graced us with this building. We could build here the retail experience I wanted to build. In Hong Kong, we’re well known for the customers feeling that they own the business and we want to achieve that here. Bahrain customers are very discerning and a bit more conservative than other countries. So, it’s important that we have that relationship. This is the first showroom of its kind where we have so many vehicles and brands on display as well as the team in place to build that relationship. George is tasked with that. It’s not going to happen overnight but that’s our aim.
Adamas has publicly said it wants to be the best company to work for and also to do business with. How do you plan to achieve this?
We’re humble. We work very hard. We have virtually everybody that has been with us since day one. Everyone should be involved and valued – nobody can win a football game on their own, nobody can run a business on their own. It’s all about the people and I do actually care for every single one. Everybody has to have a place. Yes, we have to have processes and discipline and to know what we need to deliver.
But I can’t do everything on my own, it’s impossible. I’ve learned the importance of valuing my people. For example, one of the tea boys is a graduate from Bangladesh and I’ve promoted him to team leader looking after our head office. He is the company! He’s there at 5am out washing down the block paving, getting the air-conditioning right for the customers – he runs it like it’s his own place and he’s not even supposed to start work until 8.30am!
I have not been in Hong Kong for almost two years, due to the pandemic lockdowns, but my people look at the business like it’s a family. Treating your team like family is the Arab way and I believe we have a lot to learn from this culture. In four years, we have created five showrooms, three service centres, with another one more coming in Abu Dhabi, and a head office. That’s all about teamwork and people. The people are what makes the business a success. And that is equally as important for the people you do business with.
I’m very gratified to say that we have VIP guests flying in from all over the world to celebrate the opening with us, some who have not travelled at all during the pandemic. That our partners are willing to make that journey speaks a lot to the relationships we always aspire to in the way we work with people across the business. Money is not made because you want to make money. Money’s made because you have passion and drive and you’re honest and work hard every day, that’s what my grandfather taught me. Yes, we want to make a profit but we work ethically and honestly and work very hard. I work six or seven days a week, I love what I do. If I retire, I will die, I’m never going to retire.
Please share a fact about yourself that other people might not know?
I love the Middle East. If you get beyond the hotels and that kind of stuff, and live a decent honest life, we’re safe here, we’re looked after and it’s multicultured. I’ve learned to make friends with people that I would never otherwise have met. My nickname at at Al-Habtoor was the ‘White Arab’ because I worked like an Arab, not like an Englishman. I also have a great passion for and interest in music. I particularly enjoy Khaleeji music and can even dance Khaleeji! ✤