I got to attend the 2013 Abu Dhabi Golf Championship two weeks ago. Let me be blunt, I hate Golf. I don’t know if I hate because I am no good or I am no good because I hate it, but I do know it is slow, so I don’t play, and I certainly don’t watch it on TV. I would rather watch fishing. I watched McIlroy and Tiger not make the cut for a few holes and then headed to the vendors village to watch Cadillac sell cars to the Arabs.
If you want to benchmark whether you truly are the Standard of the World, there is no better venue than the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship. Actually, there is. Venues like the Waste Management Phoenix Open, or the Farmers Insurance Open, pay more than $6 million. Not that Tiger Woods did care. Abu Dhabi had to pay him $2.8 million just to show up. Tiger stumbled over a local rule that had something to do with balls stuck in sand, and could repair to his suite.
Standard-setting Cadillac is not the title sponsor of the event. To be able to afford this expensive honor, you must be a big bank like HSBC. Their sponsorship fee for Abu Dhabi dwarfs in relationship to the $1.9 billion in alleged money laundering fines for which HSBC was shaken down by a nearly insolvent U.S. government that needs a lot of cash after bailing out GM. Cadillac was a simple sponsor in Abu Dhabi, a distinction it had to share with a local real estate developer, a hotel, and a struggling Swiss watchmaker called Rolex. Cadillac made the best of it, even if the effort looked somewhat disconnected. The entrance to the village featured a display of their sedan offerings, including a blacked out V Spec.
GM is pushing hard to increase its Middle East market share, which is teensy by world standards. I have seen more Dodge 1500 crew cabs here than Escalades. You would think that Arabs are attracted by Cadillac’s baroque offerings, but most of the higher end cars come from Mercedes and BMW, and the big vehicles are Land Cruisers and Nissan Patrols.
Cadillac is pushing a luxury car lineup, and a golf championship would appear to be the right demographic. But the effort, like their marketing, was half-hearted across the field, and confusing. A hole in one from the 7th tee would have netted the pro a free XTS. The very car was parked right there, along with a huge poster, barking “SCORE A HOLE IN ONE. WIN A CADILLAC XTS.” In case someone did not get the memo. Cadillac could take the car back home.
Instead of marketing to sheikhs, Cadillac attracted kids and expat low-lifes like me: Inside the vendors village was a tent featuring a full motion race simulator with three screens and speakers. (Planning session in Detroit: “Can them Ay-rabs drive at all?” “Don’t worry, we’ll teach ‘em!”) The young attractive crew offered test drives around a simulated Yaz Marina Formula 1 Circuit in Abu Dhabi. The motto over the simulator proclaimed the “Achieve Perfect Control” and “Enjoy the Ride.” Oddly enough, the simulator was not a CTS-V, it wasn’t even a Caddy. It was a Corvette.
There was a warm up lap, followed by three hot laps. Any time under 1:10 got you’re a prize pack of a backpack, Calloway Golf Shirt, pullover sweater and hat all emblazoned with the Cadillac logo. With the reputation of TTAC on my shoulders I pulled two 1:06s and a 1:05. I could take to my Abu Dhabi home a pile of swag that would have received sneers in the poorer parts of Brooklyn. Later I would try again for a sub minute time and fail miserably. I was on track for a 1:03, but I let the rear step out on the final slow left bank and took a minor Off Track Excursion. I failed to achieve perfect control, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy the ride.
Standard of the affluent world? Ford used a racing simulator two years ago to market its Focus to the Chinese masses at the Shanghai Motor Show. It was made by a TTAC commenter, Perisoft. Bertel drove it, a guy who rarely drives. Two years later, what looks like the same sim is used to sell Cadillacs to Sheiks? Too bad GM isn’t building ships for the Navy:
“Sub Standard of The World” would have a nice ring to it.