By on July 17, 2008

Ok, fire everyone else...With GM slashing wildly at any line items that aren't nailed down, how much of its precious cash will The General remove from its motorsports budget? The Car Connection poses the question based on the following choice snippet from Rick Wagoner's latest fireside chat o' doom: "We will implement significant reductions in promotional and event budgets, motor sports activities and back-office expenses." To be perfectly honest, cutting motorsport makes a lot of sense right now. After all, they're not winning many NASCAR races and TV ratings have been in decline for two straight years (although there's been some writers-strike rebound this year). So if GM's woes are based (even partially) on a lack of fuel-efficient vehicles, can you win on Sunday and sell on Monday when gas is over $4 per gallon? I'd hope GM will cut almost all of its motorsport to focus on the only product that even remotely relies on racing credibility: Corvettes in GT racing. Your thoughts?

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37 Comments on “Ask The Best And Brightest: Should GM Cut Motorsports?...”


  • avatar

    Yes. End of story.

  • avatar
    Bancho

    I don’t know about that. I do know that Honda actually learns from their participation in motorsports and that knowledge translates into real improvements in their vehicles. I read an article about the new 1.5L motor Honda’s putting in the 2009 Fit and it was filled with all sorts of interesting tweaks which were a result of their experience in motorsports.

    If GM was able to take something away from their own experience and use it to improve their product (especially on the 4 cylinder front) then I would say that their participation in those activities was a worthwhile endeavor.

  • avatar
    86er

    Like you said, Edward, NASCAR ratings are down, so GM should cut back commensuratively as needed.

    That said, if GM isn’t in it to win, they should obviously reassess.

  • avatar
    Zarba

    GM should reassess NASCAR. I think they could significantly cut back their investments in engine development, aero, etc., that subsidize many of the teams. Do we really need them expending millions on carbureted V-8 engines?

    If racing isn’t paying off in sales and/or technology, then it’s a waste of time. Does anyone really think Chevy sells more Impalas because Dale Jr. drives a tube-framed COT with headlight stickers?

    At least Corvette racing improved the customer cars.

  • avatar
    harumph

    What a bunch of dum-dums. Motorsports are a great way to spur technological innovation, they also get the rank & file excited about your products. Look at how Toyota won the Tokachi race last year with a hybrid. If GM starts taking too many short term approaches to slashing its budget, it will lose a lot of its luster with people.
    A side note, I saw those Corvettes (or ones just like them) run at Lime Rock Park last weekend and they were the most brutal sounding machines ever. It was brilliant.

  • avatar
    CSJohnston

    Sad to say but yes. In times like this everything non-essential to the engineering, development, production, marketing (in the non-promotional sense) and distribution of quality, popular product must be reduced, shelved or eliminated.

  • avatar
    ash78

    I’m a firm believer that NASCAR does not lead to sales these days. It may bolster a firm’s reputation, but participation in NASCAR is sort of like seeing ads for “Beef” or “Milk” (or even “Coke”) on TV. It’s image, not product.

    I think GM should diversify its motosports moneys. LeMans, sure. How about more rally and World Touring Car and others like that? Things that actually push real technology into real cars so a tangible ROI might be possible?

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    GM should focus on sports that involve fans and actually sell vehicles. Do grassroots work at racing events where GM is a supplier of the best parts and knowledge, but does not sponsor teams itself.

    That should cut their spend to about 10% of current levels, but still allow for involvement with fans. Obviously, Nascar has no place in such a scenario.

  • avatar
    jaje

    As humble as most vehicles made by Honda are its foundation was based on racing versus most other car companies (a very few select companies have this origin and most sell high end 6 figure sports cars). For them it’s their livelihood and the rotation of production engineers through the motorsports and other alternative programs (fuel cells, HondaJet, etc.) makes being an engineer for Honda one of the dream jobs.

    For GM – so they cut down on NASCAR – sales of the Monte Carlo plummet to 200 per month from 500 per month – not much of a big deal. NASCAR has so little to do with road cars today anyway – ironic as it’s roots were “stock cars”. How many new automobiles came with a carburetor in 2008? How about 1992? It’s also not like NASCAR fans are fairly well to do – they are most likely to be in the credit crunch and can’t afford to spend money at this time or probably for the next 3-4 years or until bankruptcy as their SUVs are now worthless and they probably are up to eyeballs in debt.

  • avatar
    guyincognito

    They probably should cut back on Nascar but I think they should expand in other areas like 4 cylinder rally cars, edurance racing, and the GT classes, where the racing can actually translate into production vehicle improvements/advertising.

    Also, I think cutting back on SEMA is a bad idea. Well, going from 10 HHR’s to 0 HHR wouldn’t be bad, but they should maintain a strong presence there to attract younger buyers, esp to Chevy and Pontiac.

  • avatar
    ash78

    Someone else commented on this regarding what to do with excess SUV inventory: SUV racing league. Just a bunch of modified Tahoes (hybrids, even?) running around a track. Part exhibition, part humor, part competition. If the Brits can race lorries around a road course, surely we can make this happen. And it sure will draw a lot of attention for the stunt, showing GM has a sense of humor and creativity.

    I don’t know about everyone else, but to me GM evokes a staid, top-heavy, white-collar company completely out of touch with the public right now.

  • avatar
    jl1280

    Motor sports are a very expensive way to learn how to refine your engineering. At this stage of GM’s life (or death) they should just go over to their local Honda/Toyota/BMW dealer and buy anything. Reverse engineer it and use the best features. Just the way the Japanese did with everything in the world during the 1970’s.

  • avatar
    AGR

    GM made a wrong headed move several years ago when they pulled Cadillac out of the LeMans race.

    Corvette Racing MUST CONTINUE.

    Get out of NASCAR truck racing immediately.

    Get out of NASCAR car races immediately, the CoT is a joke with absolutely no relation to production cars.

    What are the chances of GM actually making decisions that will make sense?

  • avatar
    Detroit-Iron

    @Bancho

    GM seems to be incapable of learning from anything, including history, racing, or basic economics class.

    They might as well drop out, their not car people anyway. It’s too bad, their ALM program was one of the best things going for GM culturally (as in their corporate culture)-actually competing with other companies. Though the way GM operates I’m surprised they didnt’ run a Buick and a Pontiac in the same class as the ‘Vette.

  • avatar
    Gregzilla

    I’d say continue with RELEVANT racing. I beleieve the Corvette program fits this description as the Vettes on the road certainly have some of the DNA from the racing program. Focus participation in programs where the product sold to the public can benefit from what is learned on the race track. I have been of the opinion for the past 20 or so years that nothing in NASCAR is relevant to what is sold in the showrooms…..carbureters? V-8 engines that you cannot get in any of the street cars any more? They just moved to unleaded fuel last year….all that aside from the obvious CoT disconnect.

  • avatar
    John R

    I’m in agreement with most here: Get out of motor sports that are irrelevant. Its just a waste of money, period.

    Just imagine how much better GM engines would be if they spent as much money in ALMS, WRC and Formula/Indy as do in racing series where carbureted V8s run around in circles? Super GT (Japan) and DTM (Germany) makes NASCAR look like a joke.

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    No, no, no and no.

    Racing makes better cars, end of story.

  • avatar

    HMMM lets see GM is in survival mode hmmmm difficult to say but lets see my vote is yes.

    Last year I was trying to sell three of my house that I normally rent out. So I had multiple mortgages, electric and water bills and no rental income for 6 months. I was hemorrhaging cash every month. During that period I re-examined every expense and cut away. I cancelled my newspaper and all magazine subscriptions, cancelled cable, no high speed internet, I only purchased the cheapest foodstuffs sold in supermarkets (Ramen Noodles, chicken pot pies etc). GM needs to do the same, they can’t afford to dick around.

    Postscript for myself, after six months of being unable to sell the house I have them all rented out and due to my earlier cost cutting I am banking more money every month than my salary at work. Its amazing what you can cut if you really cut everything that is not essential and its amazing on how much you really can save if you have to.

  • avatar
    monkeyboy

    Wow. That’s all, just Wow.

    There’s more to motorsports than NASCAR. GM is in almost every form of motorsports there is. Yes, they should cut the budget.

    They’re at the top in almost every form of racing. They’ve nothing to prove.

    Yes they do rally, off-road, dirt track, asphalt, everything.

    F1? What’s that.

  • avatar
    scrubnick

    In regards to the ALMS Cadillac LMP program, that had to stop to save face. After years of development, they got “close” to the Audis and everyone else, but still weren’t on that top level. No sense throwing a ton of money at finishing second or third at best.

    The Corvette program should keep going, but they should stop running GT1 in the ALMS and run GT2 instead. There’s absolutely no sense racing against yourself all year. Go race against the Porsches and Ferraris and everyone else. Then a win actually means something.

  • avatar
    quasimondo

    I think GM should diversify its motosports moneys. LeMans, sure. How about more rally and World Touring Car and others like that? Things that actually push real technology into real cars so a tangible ROI might be possible?

    NASCAR isn’t the only racing that GM is involved in.

    They are involved in the SCCA SpeedWorld challenge, where Cadillac won the Manufacturers’ Championship in the GT class in 2005 and 2007. I’m sure some of that success trickled down into the 08 CTS

    Pontiac races in the Daytona Prototype class of Grand American racing, usisng a LS6-based engine. I’m sure the lessons learned from that engine trickled down into the rest of the LS lineup.

    If GM was able to take something away from their own experience and use it to improve their product (especially on the 4 cylinder front) then I would say that their participation in those activities was a worthwhile endeavor.

    Chevy also does drag races in the NHRA sport compact series with the 2.2-litre Ecotec engine. The late John Lingenfelter gets the credit for pulling unheard of amounts of power from that engine, but his pioneering work probably paved the way for the Ecotec turbos under the hoods of the high-performance models of the Sky, Solstice, Colbalt, and HHR.

  • avatar
    Morea

    The problem with this thread is lack of numbers.

    How much does GM lose a month overall? How much do they spend on media advertising? How much do they pay Pratt and Miller to run the ALMS/Le Mans Corvette program?

    My guess is that racing is rather small line item in the grand scheme of things. Cutting it would be an all too public statment about their bottom line.

  • avatar
    folkdancer

    NASCAR has very tight rules and the cars are extremely specialized. Can a manufacturer innovate very much and learn much of anything new?

    It seems that we can learn more from college kids racing solar powered vehicles and races where vehicles find their own way across the desert.

    These events tell us which new ideas may have promise.

    We don’t really need more vehicles that use most of their fuel to make noise and heat – we need vehicles that are efficient.

  • avatar
    rpn453

    Like any other form of advertising, manufacturer participation in motorsport certainly does not affect my car purchasing decision. But if there’s a return on investment in terms of either advertising or technology, then I guess they should keep doing it.

  • avatar
    BostonTeaParty

    Nascar is unrelatable to production vehicles and to brace myself for the onslaught, its not even proper racing. Wheres the chicanes, left AND right turns, dramatic pits tops, its like watching paint dry for 500000 laps!!

    Ford of Europe in its days of pain took too long to get out of the various racing schemes it was involved in, particularly F1 which didn’t bring anything to the bottom line. Once sorted then yes, reassess and enter the correct areas that actually bring something to the company or can be used like Ferrari and F1 to eventually get something onto the car on the street. GM should be doing the same with its interests, pull out make sure it is more stable then reassess in the coming years. Sema should stay as the after market and tuning market are huge opportunities that can’t be missed in these cash strapped days.

  • avatar
    davey49

    Regardless of whether or not GM gets any engineering advantage out of NASCAR it is by a very large margin the most popular motorsport in the US.
    It’s a lot of eyeballs and ears to hear about your product.
    No one should cut any motorsport funding.
    scrubnick- I’ve heard that the Corvettes are running in GT2 next year.

  • avatar
    thoots

    One thing that made me laugh was the recent headline, “GM Cutting Back on NASCAR Spending.” Just when NASCAR’s Tony Stewart made his big move from a top-performing Toyota team to buy his way into an under-performing Chevrolet team.

    “Gosh, Tony, I hope there will BE Chevrolets to base your car upon in the future!”

    For any manufacturer, NASCAR is utterly nothing but “marketing.” If it fits into the marketing budget, then I suppose it’s worth their while.

    Otherwise, I don’t see that GM could possibly “learn” anything from any current form of motorsports, with the possible exception of anything having to do with the Corvette. Only if some form of alternative-energy series were developed, might GM get some kind of engineering benefit from its participation.

    To be fair, though, essentially the same goes for any other manufacturer. Either the “technology” is stone-age, as in NASCAR, or it’s in an entirely different league compared to passenger vehicle development. Again, unless some alternative-energy series emerges, motorsport’s usual hunt for more horsepower just isn’t very relevant anymore. The technology of passenger vehicles is heading down an entirely different path.

  • avatar

    davey49 “Regardless of whether or not GM gets any engineering advantage out of NASCAR it is by a very large margin the most popular motorsport in the US.”

    So would you rather GM cut developement funds instead. GM needs to save cash. GM doesn’t have the luxury of being motorsports unless there is a direct payoff. They are facing bankruptcy despite their claims otherwise.

  • avatar
    Qwerty

    For the big companies, racing is just an ego trip that servs little business purpose. It is a waste of money.

    For Ferrari, for Porsche it makes sense. No one is going to buy a Camry because Toyota is dumping hundreds of millions of dollars per year into F1. And for GM, which should be concentrating on appliance cars, it distracts from what they should be doing.

  • avatar
    nino

    Cut motorsports?

    What motorsports are GM in?

    They’ve already cut back the Corvette program and NASCAR is…well….

    To be a world class company, you need to be in world class motorsports.

    Every thing else is just NASCAR.

  • avatar
    nino

    For Ferrari, for Porsche it makes sense. No one is going to buy a Camry because Toyota is dumping hundreds of millions of dollars per year into F1. And for GM, which should be concentrating on appliance cars, it distracts from what they should be doing.

    While it might not make any difference in the US, rest assured that participation in world class motorsports (Formula 1, World Rally Championship, and the LeMans Series) gives a participating company prestige and “reputation” that allow it to sell cars in other parts of the world.

    Just look at the list of companies that participate in world class events:

    Citroen
    Peugeot
    Subaru
    Suzuki
    Ford
    Toyota
    Honda
    BMW
    Mercedes Benz
    Ferrari
    Renault
    Audi
    Porsche

    These don’t include GT1 or GT2 cars

    Off the top of my head.

  • avatar
    Phillip

    I keep seeing here people mentioning how technology developed for racing programs trickles down to production cars.

    This is simply a myth that automotive manufacturers would like you to believe because it helps them sell cars. For example, I’ve seen an interview with the head of the BMW Williams F1 team among others where he also stated that this is a myth.

    If fact, most often the complete opposite is true; technology is developed with production vehicles in mind, but is still too expensive to implement, so it first appears in racing.

    International Racecar Engineering had an article on this misconception as well a while back.

  • avatar
    Qwerty

    Just look at the list of companies that participate in world class events:

    It does not matter how many participate. It matters how many see benefits that outweigh the costs.

    I would argue that the massive amount of money companies like Honda and Toyota are pouring into F1 does not make sense because their bread and butter is reliable appliance cars, which have nothing to do with racing.

    GM does not have the money to be wasting on motor sports. They should be spending the money designing small, fuel efficient cars, not cars for hoons.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    Race on Sunday, sell on Monday hasn’t been true for decades. I vote for pulling out 100%. The vast majority of GM’s racing investment is in Nascar, where the technology hasn’t applied to real world cars in … forever. Nascar used to have Stock Car in it’s name and once upon a time the cars on the track had much in common with their cousins in the showroom. Today, not even a little. What does a v-8 powered, carburetted, rear wheel drive race car have in common with a Ford Fusion or Chevrolet Impala? Absolutely nothing. Zip. Nada.

    Check out the side by side picture of a real truck and a Nascar “truck”:

    http://i2.cdn.turner.com/nascar/2008/news/features/05/20/inside.research.development.center/trucks.510.jpg

  • avatar
    DearS

    I say race factory cars that way you can learn from them, have a lot of different opinions and apply lessons to newer models.

  • avatar
    N85523

    Yes.

  • avatar
    Morea

    A lot of what is learned from racing is in the form of development tools, largely simulation software for engines, aerodynamics, and tires. If you can model an F1 car with a 20,000 rpm redline and a 200 mph top speed you can apply these computer models to the family sedan. Much can be said for on-board sensor technology as well.

    There are also trends where things are developed by the aeronautics industry, pass through auto racing, and make it to the family car. Disk brakes, supercharges, and multiple valves per cylinder are all examples. Disk brakes: from WWII aircraft, to Jaguars at Lemans in the early 1950s, to the Austin-Healy 100S the first car with disks at all for corners, to most cars today.

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