Abu Dhabi Dispatches: How Cadillac Markets To The Truly Affluent

W Christian Mental Ward
by W Christian Mental Ward
abu dhabi dispatches how cadillac markets to the truly affluent

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.

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4 of 16 comments
  • Lorenzo Lorenzo on Feb 02, 2013

    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.

    • Corntrollio Corntrollio on Feb 04, 2013

      See above. He should have known the rule because it's the rule applicable to every major tour event, not just Abu Dhabi.

  • Amca Amca on Feb 03, 2013

    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.

  • Alan GM is still dying. The US auto manufacturing sector overall needs to restructure. It is heavily reliant on large protected vehicles with far more protection than the EU has on its vehicles (25% import tariff).Globally GM has lost out in the EU, UK, Australia, etc. GM has shut down in Australia because it is uncompetitive in a global market. Ford still exists in Australia but is reliant on a Thai manufactured pickup, the Ranger which is Australia's second largest selling vehicle.The US needs to look at producing global products, not 'murica only products. Asians and Europeans can do it. America is not unique.
  • Duane Baldinger Ya my cupcake Mailman will love it!
  • Duane Baldinger Where can I send the cash? It's a surprise BDAY present for my cupcake Mailman. D Duane
  • Art Vandelay Pour one out for the Motors Liquidation Corporation
  • Bill Wade Norm, while true I'll leave you with this. My 2023 RAM is running Android 8 released in 2017.My wife's navigation on her GM truck is a 2021 release, I believe the latest. Android Auto seems to update very week or two. Now, which would you rather have? Anybody with a car a couple of years old NEVER sees any updates. Heck, if your TV is a few years old it's dead on updates. At least cell phones are rapidly updated. If your old phone won't update, buy another $200 phone. If your GM vehicle doesn't update do what, buy another $50,000 GM vehicle?