Saudi Arabia, a country well known for a disregard of human rights and systematic misogyny, has recently made the decision to allow Women the pleasure of driving. Many reports have lauded this as a symbol that things are going to start to get more progressive, and have made suggestions that this may be the first of many changes to the Saudi way of life. I, however, must beg to differ; this law was not changed for the benefit of the people, nor will they start to be anytime soon.

All hail King Salman

To fully understand this story, it's vital that you're aware of the character of King Salman.

This is a man that brings a whole new meaning to excess and riches, even whilst an estimated 1/4 of the Saudi population are thought to live below the poverty line. You might be forgiven for thinking that any royal family is bound to splash their wealth around at least a little bit, but King Salman, never one to be beaten, is certainly the most ostentatious individual I have read about. Let me divulge a few examples: firstly, on a recent trip to Russia, he ensured that he had a solid gold escalator (which ended up malfunctioning in a tremendously satisfactory manner) to take him from the lofty heights of his private jet to the tarmac of the runway below; then there's that time he went to Jakarta and took two elevators (or "personal lifts"), two Mercedes cars, a 1,500 strong entourage, and 500 tonnes of luggage.

I don't think this is a ruler that particularly cares about his people, but then why would he allow this law to pass? It's a simple answer: business.

The More Cars, The More Money

Whilst the ban will not be fully lifted until June of next year (there have been a string of arrests made in recent days as women responded to the news by attempting to drive), women are fully permitted to apply for a driving license so that they're ready when the big day arrives.

Within mere seconds of the news going live, a plethora of global car manufacturers including Ford, General Motors, Jaguar, and Volkswagen, had already begun releasing their advertisement campaigns in the form of mostly contrived, somewhat cheesy clichés regarding "girl power." Ford, for example, ran with an image of a Hijab clad woman staring at her reflection in the rear-view mirror with an accompanying slogan of "Welcome to the driver's seat".

I'm sure you're all feeling so refreshingly empowered.

The truth is, this is an opportunity that no business can refuse. On one hand, they get to appear socially liberal and caring, and on the other, they get to rake in money, and lots of it. It's a golden ticket for the entirety of the automotive industry to jump into a completely new and relatively wealthy market; there are approximately 14 million Saudi women, and one business analyst has predicted a surge of 60,000 vehicles purchased per year for a period of 11 years.

Social change or big bills?

It is somewhat remarkable that this law has been changed at such a convenient time for the economy. Saudi Arabia's market figures for 2016 show a significant drop in light automobile sales of %12.2, something that clearly wasn't sitting well with the powers that be.

This is not about allowing women more freedom. In fact, whilst we're here I'll point out that women still can't marry or divorce without express permission from a male chaperone, appear in any public space when not in their uniform of a full-length abaya, or even go out for dinner unless a designated section is provided in the building. This is about money, and exploiting a market comprised of those discriminated against in nearly every other element of their lives. I am not saying that women should not be celebrating this change, as they have battled for three long decades for their right to do so, I am simply stating that this isn't about to spark the end of an ultra-conservative ruling, nor should we pretend it will.