The Ferrari Enzo is, as cars go, special. It is named after Enzo Ferrari, the company’s founder. It’s as fast as most race cars — it can go fro 0 to 60 in just over three seconds, and tops out at about 221 miles per hour (355 km/hr). Only about 400 were ever produced, one of which is pictured above. They retailed for just under $700,000 when first offered for sale from 2002 to 2004 (and that offer was only made to a select group of previous Ferrari buyers). Today, the cars regularly sell for over $1 million. And if you own one, you can therefore probably afford to get a car wash once in a while.
So why is the one pictured above so dusty? Because it’s abandoned. But it isn’t quite alone. The Enzo above was found at the Dubai airport, one of many very expensive vehicles which have suffered a similar fate. As the Daily Mail reported — and demonstrated, with a lot of pictures if you click that link — there are a surprisingly large number of cars littering the streets and parking lots of Dubai; their owners have left town, leaving these cars behind.
The reason this is happening? Debt — plus a legal system which isn’t very forgiving.
Dubai’s economy, unlike most of the region, isn’t dependent on oil — the petroleum and gas sector accounts for only about 2% of the emirate’s GDP. The driving sectors of the Dubai economy are real estate/construction, trade (and its role as an entrepôt or port of call), financial services, and tourism. All of these sectors attract foreigners or foreign investment, as have Dubai’s sector-specific free economic zones (such as Dubai Internet City, which offers a low-tax home for nearly 1,000 digital companies, many of which you certainly know well). Similarly, Dubai salaries are roughly that of European or American jobs, but because Dubai has no income tax, the emirate attracted a lot of expats over the last decade or two.
A lot of money and a lot of ways to spend it? That sounds like a great place to live, and that’s exactly what life was like in Dubai for many, and led to some very high net-worth individuals buying very pricey cars. Everything seemed wonderful — until the economy tanked in 2008. A down economy means jobs evaporate, salaries get slashed, and investments disappear. One can go from being very rich to being in deep, deep debt. In most places, the solution was to declare bankruptcy. But in Dubai, that’s not an option. As Business Insider reports, “under Sharia law which is observed across the Middle East, non-payment of debt is a criminal offense. As the UAE [which Dubai is a part of] has no bankruptcy laws, there is no protection for those slipping into debt, even accidentally.”
To get around this, then, expats with significant debts do the only thing they can — they slip town, leaving everything behind, even the milllion-dollar Ferrari. One Quora commentor explained the phenomenon:
A lot of ex-pats lost their jobs and, since it is illegal to move out of the country without settling all your debts, many “did a runner.” Expensive luxury automobiles were left where they sat all over town. We live in the Marina and our neighbourhood was littered with abandoned cars. The garage in our high-rise still has a few of these relics sitting around.
You could/still can recognise cars as abandoned because they gradually become layered with a thick coating of sand and dust. Most of these now sadly wrecks have been towed away, but you occasionally still see one – probably left behind by some desperate soul at a more recent time. The most amazing thing is that they sit at the curb not only untowed by the municipality, but untouched by vandals and thieves as well. In NYC one of these luxury sports cars who be stolen or stripped almost as soon as it was parked!
If you do a runner you will never be able to return to Dubai or you will be arrested. It may have seemed to be the only solution for those who did/do so, but I have lived in Dubai for many years and love it here. I would hate to be barred from visiting or residing in the UAE.
Another gallery of abandoned cars (some with expletives written in the grime) can be seen here.
From the Archives: Burying the Bentley: How to dispose of a brand new, $500,000 car.
Related: Dubai’s human rights record is less-than-stellar, to say the least. Here’s an autobiography by a man who, as the title says, had to escape from Dubai.