King Saud University Gazal-1 – Click above for a high-res image gallery
Few took them seriously when the students of King Saud University unveiled their first design in Geneva last March. But the Saudi institute of higher education is reportedly putting their plans to begin producing their own line of automobiles into high gear.
According to Reuters, the project is being undertaken by the university's investment arm, Wadi al-Riyadh Technology, with technical and financial support from an as-yet undisclosed South Korean firm. Could Hyundai/Kia be behind the effort? Hard to say, but whoever it is, they're tipped to be putting up 30 percent of the cash, in addition to the technical know-how. The university is set to put in as much as 15 percent of the capital needed, while the rest is reportedly being offered to outside investments. Altogether, the project is budgeted at $500 million.
The outfit's first vehicle will reportedly be "an economic car suitable for local use," as opposed to the Mercedes-Benz Geländewagen-based SUV concept pictured above. Spokespeople say they hope to offer the vehicle in other countries in the region, including the Gulf emirates and North African countries.
The development is peculiar for a number of reasons, namely that (a) Saudi Arabia, though the largest economy in the Arab world, is not known as an automobile producing or exporting country, and (b) most cars are not built by universities. Still, if any country has the oil money to pull it off, it's surely Saudi Arabia.