Yesterday Daimler announced that McLaren would be buying out Daimler’s interest in their joint venture Formula 1 team. Many, including board member Erich Klemm, thought this made all kinds of sense. “In the (car) factories, every cent is being turned over three times. The employees are feeling the financial crisis with shorter working hours and loss of income,” he continued. “In these economically difficult times, the company should invest in better marketing of its real cars.” My, what a novel idea!
But Klemm is on the board as a representative of the workers. As such, his view caries little weight with the blue blood leaders of the pack. With the McLaren venture out of the way, Daimler is now teaming up with the petro dollar rich Abu Dhabi investment fund to buy out champions Brawn GP. Matthew Curtin over at the Wall Street Journal thinks Daimler is pulling a brilliant maneuver:
Daimler might have got its timing just right. F1 suddenly has become cheap. A fight among manufacturers and the sport’s governing body, the FIA, on how to reduce F1 running costs has led to an agreement to cap spiraling budgets. One example: the limit of 16 engines per team of two drivers. In the past, teams would build as many as 100 a year. Those controls could reduce the cost for a stand-alone Mercedes team to €60 million ($89.8 million) in 2011 from the €240 million it would have spent two years ago. At that price, F1 becomes a competitive marketing strategy given an international television audience running into hundreds of millions a year.
Are people really going to be attracted to a Mercedes-Benz because they saw something with a three pointed star parading around the track on TV? Somehow I think this is more about perks for Daimler executives than it is about moving the metal. Matthew Curtin may already be salivating over his expected all access pass to the Daimler-Brawn hospitality tent.