Ralph R. Debbas: The Innovation Interview

Ralph R. Debbas, Chairman & CEO of W Motors S.A.L shares his thoughts and insights on innovation, technology and hypercars.

Raised in Beirut, Ralph hails from a family of industrialists. From a very young age, he was surrounded by entrepreneurship and family businesses spreading around the region in several sectors of the industry.

With a background in economics, Ralph pursued a degree in Design at the Lebanese American University, continuing his higher education in England. There, he studied Automotive Design at the prestigious Coventry University School of Art and Design and graduated with honors.

Sponsored by the European Union in 2008, Ralph worked on several award-winning concepts across Europe, gaining excellent access into the automotive world and industry.

A true pioneer in the region, Ralph R. Debbas is the founder of W Motors S.A.L, a company that was launched in 2012 in Beirut, Lebanon, as the first Arabian Manufacturer of High Performance Luxury Sports Cars.

January 2013 witnessed the World Premiere of W Motors’ first revolutionary model, the “Lykan HyperSport” at the International Qatar Motor Show. This was followed by a regional and European tour that helped to create global exposure for the automotive brand, which has been positioned as the most luxurious and exclusive brand of Hypercars in the world.

Following the successful launch of W Motors and the “Lykan HyperSport”, Ralph R. Debbas has been bestowed with several international awards to salute his achievements, namely the Arab Nations “United Nations Foundation for Creative Entrepreneurship” and “The Visionary Entrepreneur of the Year 2013 Award by CCS” amongst others.

Headquartered in Dubai since early 2013, W Motors S.A.L plans to relocate its factories and manufacturing facilities to the UAE in the coming year by expanding the company locally with the construction of a new production and assembly facility thereby creating a new industry with new job opportunities.

How do you define innovation and what does it mean to you?

Innovation is the approach of an existing idea or product by looking at it from a different angle. We are surrounded everyday by inventions that made our life easier, innovation simply makes life more interesting. At W Motors we base all our work on innovation in technology, luxury, performance or design. Always taking things further in developing never seen before products.

What industry needs to embrace innovation and take more risks?

The Automotive industry is constantly going the extra mile to embrace innovation, however most manufacturers have a calculated risk in order to stay inline with the trends. This is bound to change, many manufacturers are looking further down the line for their future products.

But innovation can also be as simple as creating a new door opening mechanism, designing a futuristic gear stick or integrating new technologies inside the vehicle cabin. These risks have to be taken in order to make a statement “we are different, we are more advanced, we are willing to take the risk to change the perception of how the consumer looks at cars today” and this is how all manufacturers in this industry should be thinking (in my opinion).

What is the best piece of advice that you have been given and received?

A quote by Eleanor Roosevelt : “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams”. This quote has been the basis for making W Motors come to life. Believing in your dreams can help make others dream along with you, achieving the impossible in making a beautiful dream become a reality.

What is your greatest achievement and why?

My greatest achievement is having created one of the most incredible cars in history, a brand that people look up to and, most of all, being remembered as the first Arabian manufacturer of hypercars in such a short time. In short, bringing pride and honor to all Arab nations and Arabs around the world. Knowing that we are followed and supported by thousands and millions of people that are proud of our creation, this simply makes me know that I have at least achieved something close to success.

Newspapers and Books: Digital or Physical?

With all the innovative technologies on the market today, we are programed for more comfort. And yet, one thing that can never change is the feeling of holding a newspaper or magazine in your hand, flipping through the paper pages and writing notes on the pages. Or waiting eagerly for a publication to come out featuring the Lykan HyperSport printed on thick glossy paper. Paper gives you a completely different feeling of excitement, rather than simply reading it on a digital screen.

As Dubai’s economy continues to strengthen and Emirates introduces new airline routes, how will you position W Motors for international growth?

W Motors has become an international brand that is recognized around the world as the most exclusive and luxurious brand of Hypercars. Being based in the UAE has helped us create the exposure and visibility we require to expand the brand globally. Our marketing strategy was to first create brand exposure in the Arab region and then access the European and Asian market through Hypercar dealers in conjunction with events in Belgium, Spain, Italy, Monaco, Hong Kong and Singapore.

Nissan is leading the push towards wearable computing inside the car with the introduction of the Nismo Smartwatch that delivers real-time data on a driver’s performance. Is wearable computing something that you have explored integrating into the Lykan Hypersport driving experience?

The Lykan HyperSport is mainly focused on Exclusivity, Luxury and Technology. We are not focusing on advanced performances and driving experience, even though it is one of the most exceptional cars to drive. Yet this kind of technology can be integrated in our next upcoming model in the pipeline, the SuperSport series that is mainly focused on pure driving pleasure, performance, power and speed.

How do you envision in-dash infotainment systems evolving over the next five years and how will you position W Motors to capitalize on these trends?

The Lykan HyperSport currently has the first 3D Mid Air Holographic display system in the world. Projecting floating images in mid air with full tactile control and interaction (GPS, Multimedia, Telephone).

This is a revolution for in-dash infotainment and again a cutting edge innovation for the technology sector which was developed in collaboration with the University of Tokyo. The Lykan HyperSport is the first and only car in world to ever integrate such a system.

With partnerships with companies such Cyrus Klepcys and Quintessentially, W Motors is positioning itself to be an aspirational brand. Was this always the plan from the founding of the company?

Since its first conception, the company had to collaborate with strong partners and names in the automotive industry to create confidence and trust in the name as well as to guarantee a high standard of quality, luxury and safety in our cars. W Motors was initially launched in partnership with Magna Steyr, RUF Automobile and Studiotorino, all leading names in the automotive sector. Today we have over 15 partners in different sectors supporting the development of our cars (Carrozzeria Viotti, 2Elle Engineering, Novasis, ID4Motion, University of Tokyo, Quintessentially, Cyrus Watches and many more).

As W Motors grows and matures as company, will you follow Lamborghini’s lead and introduce an SUV in order to gain market share?

W Motors will always design, develop and produce limited edition vehicles positioned in the high end category (between 3 and 25 cars per model). Today we are mainly focused on Hypercars with the Lykan HyperSport and Supercars with the SuperSport model coming next year. We have no plans to start with SUVs anytime soon. Gaining market share is not our goal as W Motors is positioned in a very niche market offering very limited and exclusive products. Who knows what the future holds for W Motors.