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by Tim Beissmann

It might come as a surprise to you, but the Iraqi people love big American cars.

Given that the US has been engaged in the Iraq War for the best part of a decade, it is easy – especially from the other side of the world – to wrongly assume there is an ingrained hatred for all things American in Iraq.

But much like the citizens of the US, and Australians too, the Iraqi people have a soft spot for big, comfortable cruisers.

Hussein Khafaji opened a Chrysler showroom in Baghdad three years ago.

He explained to the Los Angeles Times that more expensive American cars faced an uphill battle against the cheaper Chinese, Korean and Iranian imports that make up much of the market, but were beginning to carve out a niche.

The Chrysler brand has been viewed in a positive light in Iraq since the 1960s when the first vehicles were imported.

Mr Khafaji said the key to his success so far has been the introduction of the Chrysler 300C, which he has been retailing as ‘the Obama’.

“People loved Obama and loved the car. They admired the car a lot,” he said.

“They saw it as having a good [personality], nice, popular and strong. The Arabic and Islamic world respects President Obama more than others.”

He said he has sold the car to a number of customers who have simply asked for an Obama, without knowing its actual name.

A few years ago, purchasing a brand new American car would have been considered very risky for an Iraqi, with the threat of being kidnapped or at the very least ridiculed for outwardly showing such wealth.

But today, new American cars are considered fashionable and modern in Iraq, and symbolic of the nation’s emergence from the isolation of Saddam Hussein’s control.

Defence Ministry worker and Dodge Charger owner, Salim Adnan Amiri, was one of the people responsible for an 80 per cent sales increase at Khafaji’s dealership in its second year in business.

“I preferred the American car, as I think that it gives the spirit of youth to the person using it as it is supplied with means of comfort, everything is comfortable: accelerator, A/C, air bags, all the buttons,” he said.

“Also, when you are inside the car, you are isolated from the outside atmosphere. You are not annoyed by the noise of tyres, horns, or engines of other cars.”

“The nature of the Arabs in general, including Iraqis: they love the big cars.”




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