Chrysler's Last Stand: NASCAR

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer
chrysler s last stand nascar

With Chrysler going on what may be a permanent Christmas vacation, things aren’t going good at all round Auburn Hills way. Especially with the Cerburian masters busy sweating the GMAC situation. Automotive News [sub] communicates the urgency of the situation the only way it knows: by extolling how much more necessary this makes a bailout. But you won’t learn much by reading the rhetorical flailings of bailout-backing legislators. No, to get the real skinny on how bad things are you need a good old-fashioned racing metaphor from Dodge Motorsports director Mike Accavitti. “We are going to throttle back,” he tells Automotive News [sub]. “We have to reduce our spend. We have to get our expenses in line with our revenues.” Madness. And what of the literally hundreds of people who buy Avengers because of their epic oval exploits? “NASCAR is not exempt from anything else that we do to market and promote vehicles,” reveals Accavitti, who says Chrysler has plans to cut its NASCAR spending by more than 30 percent next year. Not too shabby for a company that’s literally at death’s door. Honda, Subaru and Suzuki ditched high-profile racing programs this year due to declining sales. And they all plan on staying open past December without receiving government aid. What’s wrong with this picture?

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  • John Horner John Horner on Dec 18, 2008

    NASCAR is such a waste of money for the automakers. At least Honda is ditching marginally productive racing (F1) and halo car (NSX) programs in the face of tough times, and Honda isn't literally "knock, knock, knocking on heaven's door".

  • Quasimondo Quasimondo on Dec 19, 2008

    The difference between Honda's F1 involvement, and Subaru/Suzuki's involvement in the WRC and Detroit's NASCAR involvement is that the resources for NASCAR are less intensive than the resources for these FIA teams. Honda, Subaru, and Suzuki owned those racing teams, while Chrysler does not own a single NASCAR team. Honda, Suzuki, and Subaru used their own funding and resources to develop their vehicles. Development of the Car of Tomorrow (CoT) was done primarily by NASCAR. NASCAR is a spec-racing series, which is the least expensive way to race since nearly all parts are standardized to minimize costs. Most development costs are shouldered by the teams themselves, and the majority of money coming from GM, Ford, or Chrysler is in the form of team payouts, sponsorships, and advertising, unlike F1 or WRC which has to develop their own cars, chassis, and engines to compete, and spend even more in operating costs to run a racing team. Honda's F1 budget for 2008: $391M Chrysler's NASCAR budget (prior to reductions): $50M (est) You should also consider that while these companies are citing the credit crunch for their departure from racing, Honda, Subaru, and Suzuki have not been successful in their motorsports. Suzuki's SX4 was nowhere near as successful in the WRC as their Swift was in the Super 1600 class of the J-WRC, and rumors of their withdrawal from the WRC were floting around from as early as May of this year. It should be noted that while they've abandoned their WRC efforts, they've left the highly successful J-WRC program intact, which is very similar to what Mitsubishi did by pulling out of the WRC in 2005 while remaining involved in the Paris-Dakar rally, an event that has been highly successful for them. The same can be said for Subaru, which has not been able to duplicate the success they had when they won back-to-back titles in 2000 2001. They've shown some success with the new Impreza hatchback, but with the FIA adopting Super 2000 regulations, they would have to perform significant changes to the car's suspension and drivetrain and then apply them to production cars for homologation purposes to be eligible. This is something that many opponents of these regulations were concerned with ever since these rules were proposed three or four years ago. Please note that Ford has committed to fielding a WRC team for the 2009 season despite their financial woes, but this is due to the success they've had with the Euro-spec Focus, which has back-to-back championship wins in 06 and 07 and was in a dogfight for the 08 championship to the very end against Citroen. If Ford's racing program was not as successful, they would've pulled out a while ago. In the post-Schumacher period of F1, Honda has been simply uncompetitive. In the three seasons they've competed as a constructor, they've only had one win and three podium victories, and were never a serious contender for the manufacturer's championship. Toss in Bernie Ecclestone's push to get teams to source their engines from a single manufacturer (Cosworth) and it's a no-brainer that they have nothing to gain by dumping money into F1. They still compete in other forms of racing, most notably being the sole engine supplier for the IndyCar series, going as far as to send their own technicians to teams to provide technical support for their engines. Quite simply, the economy has become an easy way for these unsuccessful teams to pull back their involvement without the humiliation of admitting defeat. Sometimes, it's not about the Benjamins, baby. BTW: I thought TTAC doesn't discuss racing. Change in policy?

  • Iamwho2k Iamwho2k on Dec 19, 2008

    quasimondo, Brilliant summation of what's up with all these carmakers bailing on racing programs. However... It isn't Bernie who's foisting the standard engine on teams, it's Max Mosley. Bernie's the one who points a metaphorical gun at various venues to pay up if they want to host an F1 race while Max is the delusional autocrat who thinks only he knows best about the technical issues. Max is the one who's so anal about controlling costs, yet continues to introduce new rules that only cost more to implement (KERS, anyone?). As for NASCAR, who cares?

  • Orian Orian on Dec 19, 2008

    Quasi - the numbers look right, but I don't think they reflect the picture over all for most people who don't follow one or either series - Honda's F1 budget was for team (1) ownership while Chrysler was putting the money into various teams to help them along. While I don't care at all for spec racing series like Nascar, at least Chrysler was getting more out of their dollar than Honda was in F1.