DETROIT -- It was the toughest sale Maureen Kempston Darkes never made.
Last year, when General Motors showed its Cadillac Sixteen concept luxury sedan at the Dubai show in the United Arab Emirates, Kempston Darkes, GM's vice president for Latin America, Africa and the Middle East, was approached by a wealthy sheik who offered $10 million for the car.
"I cried when I couldn't sell it," she says. "Although the thought did cross my mind that maybe we could build a very limited number."
Whether concept or reality, Cadillac is drawing plenty of attention in the Middle East. Kempston Darkes says Cadillac's role as a global player will continue to rise as GM pushes into more countries. GM will sell more. It will add more exclusive dealerships.
She says Cadillac dealers in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates will spend $35 million over the next few years for about 10 luxury channel showrooms. Hummer and Saab will be included in those franchises.
Kempston Darkes expects Cadillac sales in the region to nearly double - from 2,500 units this year to as many as 4,000 - as GM brings up the network.
"If it's a global brand, you truly need to sell it around the world," Kempston Darkes says. "And I expect Cadillac to play a significant role going forward in the luxury brand business that is done in the Middle East."
She adds: "The product range we now have for Cadillac tells you we can compete very well in luxury brands."
Kempston Darkes says Cadillac's presence in the Middle East will help the brand image as a whole.
"When you say you are a global brand, then I always think it helps the business case because you build (in North America) and you sell around the world," she says. "It gives an element of prestige to the brand, and it shows the viability as a luxury brand competing with the best in the world."
Kempston Darkes also says that the Hummer H2 has done well in the Middle East, and that GM is considering importing the H3.
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