04-19-2006, 02:47 PM
Join Date: Jul 2005
Location: Philadelphia, PA, USA
What I Drive: 2004 Mazda3s Sedan MTX
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Holy Sh... AE: One of Big three pulling out of NASCAR
by Ethanol Boy
Thinking The Unthinkable.
Detroit. It has come to our attention that serious discussions are taking place for the first time in the conference rooms of one domestic manufacturer in particular on a subject heretofore unthinkable in Detroit. The subject? Pulling out of NASCAR. Yes, it has been mentioned before, and I have predicted it for months now - ever since the announcement was made that Toyota would be buying its way into the France family circus - but we have confirmation that not only are the discussions taking place, they're so far down the road that a timetable for a pullout has been created, taking into account the end dates of existing contracts with individual racing teams currently aligned with this particular manufacturer.
The fact that it has finally come to this is no real surprise. Several years ago, we pieced together evidence that each of the Detroit-based car companies were spending in the neighborhood of $140 million each, annually, on their NASCAR endeavors. That figure accounts for engineering and wind-tunnel work, direct payments to the teams, personal services contracts with the drivers, promotional programs, race sponsorships, advertising, etc., etc. In the Big Picture of things, when multinational companies are spending double that amount for the "privilege" of competing in Formula 1, that would seem like no big deal, but taking into account the factors that matter most to the Detroit car companies right now, that dollar figure is a very big deal.
And what are those factors? Beyond the obvious pressures being generated by Detroit's dire financial straits, one thing in particular is driving these "pulling out of NASCAR" discussions to critical levels - and that is NASCAR's full-on push and investment in its much-hyped "Car of Tomorrow." The COT is NASCAR's new "spec" car, and it takes NASCAR's template philosophy to its logical conclusions. The COT could easily be called a "NASCAR Special" or whatever the marketing name that the hype-masters in Daytona Beach will want to call it, because any connection to what the manufacturers are producing has been well and truly broken. I contend, of course, that the connection was broken long ago, but the Detroit manufacturers have been clinging to a shred of a connection and amusing themselves with the annual massaging of their various models' grille openings, nose shapes and headlight decals.
Until now, anyway.
Now, the realization has finally sunk in for one manufacturer, apparently, and taking everything into account and putting everything on the table, there's no longer the blind allegiance to NASCAR at this company, which is a seismic shift if you know anything about this town's slavish devotion to all things NASCAR on and off for the last 50 years.
NASCAR has been living large off the Detroit car companies' cash trough for so long now that they don't even care anymore, as all sense of reality left the NASCAR offices in Daytona Beach and New York long ago. The NASCAR attitude goes something like this: If a Detroit manufacturer drops out, it's "whatever" - because Toyota is stepping up to the plate. And if another manufacturer drops out, no worries, because eventually we'll just market our own NASCAR "Specials" and then we won't have to pay any manufacturer rights fees ever again.
But for one particular Detroit manufacturer it's no longer "whatever" - and messing with the sanctity of the NASCAR budget is no longer unthinkable - it's very real, very calculated and very imminent.
This Detroit manufacturer has decided that if it competes in motorsports in the future, it will only compete in three basic areas: 1. In production-based racing series that by rule and specification retain more than a passing resemblance to the cars they sell and the competitors they compete against in showrooms. 2. "Technical" efforts, in other words, engine programs for open-wheel and prototype racing series, but stopping short of Formula 1. And 3. Developing an effort to compete for the overall victory at Le Mans. Any other efforts, grass-roots racing, drag racing, etc., would be covered as the need and budget allow.
This particular manufacturer has finally come to the stark realization that their NASCAR involvement has done more for NASCAR than anything else. NASCAR exists for its benefit and profitability first and foremost - everything else is secondary to that fundamental premise. The relentless hype of NASCAR and its sponsors by NASCAR itself and its enablers at the TV networks has resulted in dramatically diminished returns for the participating manufacturers - and pretending that NASCAR's popularity has done wonders for these car companies in the showrooms amounts to the Big Lie. The fact of the matter is that the increase in the popularity of NASCAR over the last ten years has seen a corresponding decrease in the participating domestic manufacturers sales fortunes. And there's not one NASCAR-sponsored survey that can possibly suggest otherwise, no matter how hard they try to "cook" the numbers.
Immersed in a battle for the hearts and minds of American consumers, this manufacturer has finally taken the blinders off and decided that the blind devotion to all things NASCAR has run its course and now must come to a stop.
In other words, the $140 million that was previously earmarked for NASCAR, will be put to very good use.
Stay tuned, because we'll have more on this story in the coming weeks.
Now this is something... I personally (like most on this site) could not care less ABOUT NASCAR, but this seems like a huge step for an US based manufacturer... too bad AE could not tell which one of the manufacturers.. anyone knows?