By on February 2, 2013


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.


Tiger on 18. Camera by Apple

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.

Club house, not by Chrysler

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.

New country, same swag

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.

2013, in Abu Dhabi …

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.

Two years earlier, in China ….

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.

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

16 Comments on “Abu Dhabi Dispatches: How Cadillac Markets To The Truly Affluent...”

  • avatar

    “Mental” Ward? How appropriate.

  • avatar

    How odd on Tiger Woods not getting that rule right. I thought the USGA rule was that you can drop an embedded ball “through the green,” which means you couldn’t drop a plugged ball in a hazard except under a different rule.

    The normal rule, for mere mortals, is that you can only drop an embedded ball in closely mown areas, i.e. the fairway and any grass the same height as the fairway. If you get a plugged ball in the rough, too bad.

    • 0 avatar

      “I bet you’ve got lots of interesting stories about your balls landing in the wrong.” – Lacey Underall

    • 0 avatar

      the provided link explains the drop story. Basically local rules apply.

      • 0 avatar

        Well, sort of. Yes, it’s a “Local Rule”, capital-L, capital-R, but it’s a Local Rule adopted by every single major tour, so it’s not Abu Dhabi-specific.

        What also wasn’t clear from the provided link is that the sand in question was not a hazard, but rather was sand in the rough. Sand in the rough is a clear exception to the Local Rule — normally you can move an embedded ball “through the green,” but not if it’s embedded in sand that is not in a closely mown area. Sand on the fairway would have been fine for a drop.

        You absolutely can’t move a plugged ball in this scenario, and this is the rule for every single major tour, so it’s actually rather shocking that Woods and Kaymer didn’t get it right.

  • avatar

    That is one crazy looking clubhouse. So Mental Ward, if you had to sell Cadillacs to folks in the Middle East, what attributes of the product would you focus on?

    • 0 avatar


    • 0 avatar

      To be certain, everything here is image. Rather than stuffy rich white men, I would totally go for the rapper image. The big news around here now is Wissam Al Mana and his upcoming marriage to Janet Jackson.
      They love western culture here. Wissam cruises around Cali in a 64 Lincoln Continental Convertible. You want to move Caddy’s around here? Sell the baller status.

  • avatar

    The best thing about that golf course is that it is wholly unnatural.

    You know how much water it takes to keep that green? No doubt that grass gets more and better desalinated water than the migrant labor di

  • avatar

    Could caddy find a more out of style and cheap looking bag? I don’t think so. Come on Americans put SOME effort in you swag.

  • avatar

    Meh – Tiger was a Buick guy. Would they pilot the slightly embarrassing USS Guardian like that..?

  • avatar

    Tiger has played that tournament for years, so he should have known the local rule. More likely, he was too far off the lead to win and the missed rule got him a flight home two days early with his appearance fee packed with him.

  • avatar

    They’ll go nowhere in the Arab world until they’ve got a car that’s truly competitive with the M-B S Class. Petro Arabs always want the very best latest flashiest thing.

    Good news is Cadillac is working on just such a car.

Read all comments

Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • Corey Lewis: Glad you’re enjoying. Guess these huge cars were more likely to be stolen those years, if you...
  • SCE to AUX: Matt: You can’t claim that hiring ex-cons is OK while continuing to bring up WW2 VW. Let it go, or...
  • mcs: Here’s a link to an article: https://corpaccountabilitylab. org/calblog/2020/8/5/privat...
  • el scotto: So lemme see, four-square Larry and his coke-addled GM are reveling in ADM and even more profits? There...
  • Lie2me: Yep, “Peak Exner” is still a year away when it came to the Imperial. The thing about these cars...

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Who We Are

  • Adam Tonge
  • Bozi Tatarevic
  • Corey Lewis
  • Jo Borras
  • Mark Baruth
  • Ronnie Schreiber