During the official inauguration of BMW’s latest models in Zaitunay Bay; Biser3a.com was given the chance to interview one of Lebanon’s most prominent characters in the world of Rallying and Motorsport. Naji Heneine – co-founder of Bassoul-Heneine, the exclusive BMW, Mini, Renault, Alfa Romeo and Dacia importer – tells us more about BMW’s newcomers in addition to his sentiment on Lebanese Motorsport.
First off we’re honored to have an interview with you for the first time on our website; you have a long history with BMW and other brands, we’ve also seen you in Rallying and Motorsports.
Today we’re witnessing the launch of the all-new 3 Series and 6 Series Grand Coupe, can you tell us more about these models?
I’m going to start with the 3 Series; I remember, back in 1998, selling more than 500 3 Series’ which is quite a big number, so the 3 Series is a very important car because it represents a major portion of our sales; I’m nothing but glad that a new model has arrived.
The 6th generation is an all-new car; the amount of improvement on the F30 is huge, it features new engines, more cargo space, a stiffer chassis and better fuel economy; BMW also applied the EfficientDynamics philosophy of more power for less consumption.
The new 3er adapts to every character thanks to a new branding technique. You have the “Sports” line, for performance-oriented people, “Luxury” line for people who love the luxury feel, and the “Modern” line for those who’d like to stand out.
We had the chance to test drive the new 3 Series; it’s quite a brilliant car.
It is, it’s amazing; the new engines are turbocharged, so the torque is always within reach. I’ve driven the car myself, and I was amazed with these new engines; BMW will be focusing on 4-Cylinder turbo engines in the future, mainly for consumption and pollution purposes.
As for the 6 Series; the 6er is something totally different. It’s BMW’s first 4-door coupe, hence the Gran Coupe naming.
Have you driven it?
I did, but I can’t tell you anything really, I have nothing but positives.
Who are BMW’s direct competitors in the Lebanese market?
The 3 Series rivals the Mercedes-Benz C-Class and the Audi A4. We also have sub-competitors for fleet deals such as Volkswagen and Infiniti, but our main competitors remain Audi and Mercedes-Benz.
The 6 Series Gran Coupe meanwhile, will take on the Porsche Panamera, Audi A7 and Mercedes-Benz CLS. The main advantage offered by the Gran Coupe is that it’s a 5-seater, unlike the other three which can fit up to 4 people only.
In the 6er Gran Coupe, you feel as if you’re in a limousine despite the sloping roofline, which is the whole essence and idea of the concept.
We know that Bassoul-Heneine has a huge history in Lebanese Motorsport; you sponsored many people in the 90s. We’ve recently witnessed a Renault Sport event at the Waterfront; are you preparing an entry into Lebanese Motorsport again or was the event just a one-time thing?
No matter what I do, Motorsport will remain in my blood, it doesn’t simply go away; I still travel and test cars out on tracks, it’s a passion.
Unfortunately, Rallying nowadays is different, it got less popular. I remember back in our days, we used to see 60 to 70 cars, now there are barely 13 cars because of the high costs. We will surely field a car when the opportunity comes though.
You currently have 2 active brands in the world of Rallying, Renault and Mini. We’re seeing Mini in WRC and Renault in many Motorsport events; does this have an impact on the brands’ sales?
It will surely encourage those who are looking for performance sports cars.
It is very important with regard to Renault; we were surprised with the Renault Megane RS and Clio RS sales, so seeing Renault in Rallying and Formula 1 does indeed boost the brand’s performance image.
As for Mini, it’s a kind of prestige. Not everyone has heard of Mini in WRC because it’s still a new-born project, they’ve been at it for almost a year and a half, but despite that, we’re still seeing a lot of people tuning their Minis to look a bit like the rally cars, so this reflects positively on the brand’s image.
I’m gonna be honest with you, I still think of getting myself a Mini Cooper JCW and compete in Rallying again (giggles).
Any final words for the Lebanese market? How do you motivate people to go to your showroom and get the better brand? A lot of people are going for Japanese brands nowadays.
I wouldn’t say the Japanese are so strong, it’s the Koreans, but you really can’t compare a BMW to a Korean car, very different budgets. All I can say is that BMW has a high resale value; Bassoul-Heneine offers credit facilities including payments up to 5 years. These are two new models which will remain on the market for quite a while, so only those who get behind the wheel of a BMW will know its true value.
In the end, I just hope the situation in Lebanon remains stable.