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post #1 of 10 (permalink) Old 08-18-2004, 04:51 PM Thread Starter
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Detroit: Running on Empty with NASCAR.

From Autoextremist.com

Detroit: Running on Empty with NASCAR.

Detroit. Over the last year, I've been strongly advocating that the Detroit car companies seriously revamp their racing programs away from NASCAR, because the "stock" car series has now almost completely moved from being a serious motorsports endeavor to being a marketing/entertainment showcase that promotes the "cult of personality" of its drivers and the needs of its sponsors - to the detriment of the auto manufacturers involved. With NASCAR fully embracing the template-driven, "spec" car mantra, the Detroit-based car companies (soon to be joined by Toyota) are spending more than $75 million each for the privilege of putting headlight decals and grille openings on the front of the cars to differentiate their identities - cars that are identical in literally every other respect. That gigantic sucking sound you hear is a cumulative $225 million in auto company motorsports budgets being funneled down to Daytona Beach, with little to show for it other than to be lost in NASCAR's corporate sponsor shuffle. Well, something has to give, and as much as people in this business dismiss my perspective as something that will never happen in their lifetimes - I would caution those who hold that view to be very, very careful about their entrenched attitudes, because there is a sea change afoot in Detroit.

There is a growing movement deep within the auto companies in Detroit that genuinely believes that the days of getting their money's worth with NASCAR have long since passed. These insiders also believe that the more money that's poured into NASCAR, the less that money will be available to help Detroit close the "perception gap" with consumers out there who won't give Detroit products the time of day. This "perception gap" is topic number one all over the Motor City. Detroit is paying dearly for years and years of launching mediocre products out into the market. A whole generation of buyers and their families were rightfully turned off by Detroit's many transgressions - but now that Detroit is getting its act together and finally building some products worth considering - they're having a hell of a time convincing consumers of that fact.

And this is why there's growing dissatisfaction with NASCAR coming from deep within the hallways of "Detroit." Racing in NASCAR doesn't move the needle for the kinds of consumers Detroit needs to reach. It helps sell to Detroit's existing (and loyal) customer base, but it does nothing to quell the steady erosion of market share that's plaguing the domestic manufacturers. In other words, the people buying the Toyotas, Nissans, BMWs and other imports of the world in the U.S. market either are not NASCAR fans typically, or if they are, they don't consider the cars that are raced in NASCAR worthy of consideration - especially since they're fleet vehicles that populate the country's rental fleets.

Which is why there's a growing interest among the Detroit-based car companies in the SPEED World GT and Touring-class racing, and in the American Le Mans Series. Detroit has discovered (look at Cadillac and their CTS-V racing program in SPEED GT) that they can actually put their cars on the track, cars that actually look like a stock vehicle modified for racing - instead of a "spec" vehicle indistinguishable from the rest of the field - and race them against the import competition, which they have to compete against in the showroom every day. Other manufacturers have known this for years, of course, with high-visibility and highly popular touring car championships taking center stage around the world in the quest of convincing customers that their particular machines are the best. The old Detroit adage "Win on Sunday, Sell on Monday" is now alive and well - at least in other parts of the world.

For the Detroit manufacturers, "Win on Sunday, Rent on Monday" just doesn't have quite the same ring.

We get a lot of email here at Autoextremist.com, but I'd like to share one in particular that we received this past Monday. This reader perfectly encapsulates the diminishing returns Detroit is getting from their NASCAR involvement, and why he - a longtime NASCAR fan - has become a convert to the SPEED World Challenge Series:
"Born & raised in NC, I have been a NASCAR fan since I was a baby & even raced in the Winston Racing Series. I'm one of those guys that will watch a tricycle race for the competition. Lately, though, NASCAR has been a turn-off because you can't tell the car makes apart. I've also read your comments about other racing series, so I took the opportunity to catch last week's Speed World Challenge race on TV. Wow! What a concept! Race cars that were actually stock cars with safety modifications & sticky tires. Finally, I can watch a Cadillac spank the others & know I can get one at my local dealer. The most interesting thing about that race is that now is the first time in 8 years I've even considered trading my Impala SS for another car. Thanks for spreading the news because I can't wait for the next real stock car race! Renewed race fan in VA, Robert N."

The Detroit-based car companies are now in a struggle for their very survival. People around the country may not realize how dire things are for these Detroit car companies and believe that their fate won't have any direct effect on their lives - but it is and it will. Detroit must make inroads into the import market, and it must convince American consumers that their vehicles are worth considering - and even "cool" again. And right now, dropping $225 million a season on a racing series that won't allow the vehicles competing to even remotely resemble their street counterparts seems like a big-time bad investment.

In its "glory days," Detroit used to fuel its showroom fortunes with a helpful boost from their NASCAR involvement. But those days have been long gone - for at least 20 years now.
Detroit is running on empty with NASCAR, but the winds of change are gathering momentum. Just when you think the NASCAR juggernaut can't be derailed, think again.

Watch for a Detroit manufacturer to get the cojones to actually reduce their involvement in NASCAR to a substantial degree over the next 18 to 24 months in favor of other forms of motorsports.
Any bets on which one it will be?
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post #2 of 10 (permalink) Old 08-18-2004, 04:59 PM
 
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well since GM pulled pontiac out, my bet that chevy will be next.....
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post #3 of 10 (permalink) Old 08-18-2004, 05:26 PM Thread Starter
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His article does make sense. Makes you wonder.
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post #4 of 10 (permalink) Old 08-18-2004, 09:25 PM
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Sounds like someone who likes other forms of racing that no one follows. Nascar has the presence and ability to reach millions of potential customers. The cars are the same with different stickers, but thats what makes for great racing and wins by all makes. We don't need another F1 where one teams who spends the most money wins. NASCAR may not be what some of the old fans used to like. It is a modern sport and they need to ride this wave as long as it last.

None of the big two or Chrysler will walk away. There is too much value in the sport. It may be expensive but it does put the brands out to the customer. When Toyota starts cup racing the currents MFGs will be glad for the controls in place. With Toyota's bank account they could buy the wins.

The "perception gap" will only go away after years of high quality low priced cars and trucks. You can't buy that you earn it. Somehow I think they are years away from being even with the foreign named companies in quality.
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post #5 of 10 (permalink) Old 08-18-2004, 09:27 PM
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I don't think any manufacturers will be leaving NASCAR any time soon, Dodge just submitted the charger for approval, toyota just got into trucks with an eye on cup and don't be surprised to see nissan getting in soon.
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post #6 of 10 (permalink) Old 09-01-2004, 10:24 AM
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I kind of agree with the article. Pretty soon, they'll be making everyone use the same engines. Back in the day, trying to get ahead in NASCAR led to research and developments that found their way to street cars. Now, since everything is standardized, new developments don't really matter.
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post #7 of 10 (permalink) Old 09-01-2004, 10:32 AM
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i think the article is completely innacurate. For anyone who knows nascar well, they know that each car platform carries with it specific dimensions that make similar yet not equal to the others. at 180mph, every centimeter makes a difference in how the car performs. Sure, you dont see a Chevy driver win a race and then go decide to buy a Monte Carlo so you can do the same, but it's apples and oranges to what it used to be anyway. I wouldnt lay any of the blame on detroits shortcomings on NASCAR at all.
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post #8 of 10 (permalink) Old 09-01-2004, 11:02 AM
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I would like it better if they used each manufacturer's sports car for Nascar. Corvette, Viper, Mustang (Or the new Ford GT), ect.
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post #9 of 10 (permalink) Old 09-01-2004, 06:13 PM Thread Starter
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They'll be template racing within a few years. All chassis and bodies will be the same except for the grills and the fake lights. That's what I keep hearing and it sure seems that's the direction Nascar is going. Getting a little closer each day.
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post #10 of 10 (permalink) Old 09-03-2004, 12:21 PM
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Detroit auto makers are not going to pull out of NASCAR. As for Pontiac pulling out that was not GM's decision. The race teams that used Pontiac were so few that they could not get any help from NASCAR with just a few cars to complain about. By changing from Pontiac to Chevy those drivers had more pull with the officials. The cars are not the same, each product line has its own specs to run by.
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