We chatted with Expat Motors' co-founder and co-manager Sonny Bains
24 February 2020| Last updated on 25 February 2020
We catch up with Sonny Bains, General Manager and Co-Founder of Expat Motors for an insightful interview.
Sonny Bains took his first run into the world of automobiles while playing with small model cars his father gifted when he was a young boy.
"I would spend hour after hour playing with them on the carpets around the house. Fast forward a few years during my teens I would buy the AutoTrader, dreaming of owning a car one day. On my 17th birthday, I had my first ever driving lesson, I was hooked!" he told ExpatWoman.
He continued to indulge his interest by buying a car through a lease scheme through his mum's employer: "I had bought my first car as a hobby at the age of 18 and sold it on after a few months."
Today, British expat Bains brings years of industry experience to co-founded and co-managed retailer Expat Motors - your go-to for buying, selling, and trading cars in Dubai.
His expertise and knowledge ensure that customers find the best approved used vehicle that doesn't just meet their needs, but their budget, too. Expat Motors' strict preparation service involves detailed mechanical and history checks, so rest assured, your purchase is always safe.
But before Expat Motors came to offer three decades of experience in the automotive industry to residents, Bains was on a different route.
"I am into my fifth year in the UAE. I was working at BMW when I received a call from an ex-colleague - she told me how amazing Dubai was and that I should visit, that day I booked a flight and the rest, as they say, is history."
"My first Job in Dubai was as a purchasing manager for a company", he said, adding that it was where he would go on to meet co-founder Jason.
"Jason used to buy cars from us as he was already trading vehicles at that time. He would always pay more for good quality vehicles and he stood out from the crowd as a professional."
What attracted you to the Expat Motors business?
"Expat Motors was always planned to be unique in its approach to the motor industry. Distancing itself from the usual ‘dealer’ reputation was important to me," said Bains.
I was always focused on delivering great customer experience, Expat Motors would allow me to continue delivering that to my own customers without getting bogged down by corporate targets and red tape.
Employee vs owner – how has the transition affected you? What is different?
"Security is attractive to anyone, but freedom can’t beat that. The early stages were very worrying and I had many sleepless nights, the usual questions would come into my head at night, mainly how would we keep the bills paid and will this even work as a business?" he shared.
To Bains, their persistence is paying off: "We are slowly gathering momentum with a great customer base who help us drive the business in the right direction with reviews and referrals."
What is the key ethos of Expat Motors?
"Quality over quantity is key. We want to ensure that every customer has a no-pressure enjoyable experience and end up with the perfect car for them."
He noted that customers typically need to keep their guard up whilst purchasing a vehicle and get the gloves out when it comes to negotiation.
"At Expat Motors anyone can come and actually enjoy buying a car not feel like they need to keep their whit’s about them."
What gap in the market are you filling?
"Since arriving in Dubai I felt that we could offer a 5-star buying experience. We are extremely selective about the vehicles we offer."
Expat Motor's strict car checks mean that customers are buying "a vehicle that we would genuinely own, in short, if we wouldn’t drive it ourselves and own it we don’t sell it."
What are the key qualities of the Expat Motor team?
"All of the team members at Expat Motors come from Main Dealer backgrounds."
"All manufacturers offer the highest levels of training and standards are high. Under promise and over deliver is something we have all been taught from the beginning, this means it's second nature to us and it's a natural instinct to provide outstanding service."
What benefits car sellers with Expat Motors vs other market options?
"Because we are a retailer selling a vehicle to us cuts out the middle man, this meaning a higher price for their car," Bains said.
"We prepare a significant number of vehicles every month through our network partners, this means things like mechanical and cosmetic repairs are extremely cost-effective for us and we can pass those savings onto our sellers."
What benefits car buyers with Expat Motors vs other market options?
"Our processes for preparation are comprehensive. We have no board of directors or shareholder groups to answer to."
He added: "That means that revenue is not our primary focus. Our operations are streamlined which means that we can sell our vehicles at a more cost-effective rate than a lot of other retailers."
Where do you see Expat Motors in 3 years time?
"Expat Motors has been operating from our current premises for 2 and a half years now. I would see us moving to a cost-effective facility allowing more units and more choice for our customers."
Bains, who has been a Dubai resident for well over five years now, also discussed his life as a British expat living in the sandpit.
"My parents live in Warwickshire and my sister is in London. I try to get back at least once a year, mum and dad like to visit annually as well - it's not ideal and I do miss them but I hope to spend more time with them when they retire."
His favourite Dubai nightspot would be the outdoor gym next to the Sky Dive in the Marina. Bains enjoys "training in fresh air and views of the marina at night can’t be beaten."
Of course, a background working in cars is translated into his personal life: "I drive a BMW 640i M Sport Gran Coupe. I change cars every 6-12 months as I get bored easily, but it's always a used car and normally British or German - just my personal taste."
His dream cars are a Range Rover Vogue Autobiography Black with VIP seats in the rear for his parents and a Lamborghini Aventador in matte grey.
"When I think of muscle cars, it must be a V8 which are now slowly being phased out. Audi RS5 is the one for me. As for a classic car, my favourite is actually one I’m lucky enough to own, it’s a Mercedes Benz 560 SEC, more vintage than classic but it’s just had its 30th birthday so I guess it counts."
BMW 640i M Sport Gran Coupe
With years of experience in the automotive industry, Bains has his own expert opinion on the perfect picks for any occasion.
On the best car for the desert...
"Definitely without a shadow of a doubt would be short based Land Rover Defender. Some light modifications such as raised suspension, bucket seats, LED lighting and a custom paint job, a fairly bright colour like red or blue."
On the best car for the road trip holiday...
"I would love to drive from the East to the West Coast of the States in an Audi RS5."
On the best car for a young professional living in Dubai...
"Mercedes Benz CLA 45 AMG - perfect balance of power, size and aesthetics."
On the best car for a couple with toddlers...
"Hyundai Santa Fe. Reliable and cost effective. Strong residuals and looks great."
On the best car for a boy racer...
"Ford Mustang Eco Boost. Cheap, quick, and most boys' dream car."
On the best car for a successful 40-something expat who hasn't a family yet...
"Porsche 911. An iconic car that cannot be beaten - always a great investment too!"
Sonny Bains - General Manager at Expat Motors