By on October 6, 2021

AppleZoomZoom/Shutterstock.com

Win on Sunday, Sell on Monday. That’s been something of a mantra for car companies over the last hundred-odd years, and success in motorsports is considered a worthy enough goal for major automakers the world over to invest tens of millions – heck, hundreds of millions of dollars – to compete, if not to win. But, is it real? Does “win on Sunday, sell on Monday” hold water?

I think the answer is obvious – because, if winning races actually sold cars, Lancia would be the best-selling car brand on Earth.

WHY ARE WE TALKING ABOUT LANCIA?

In 1974, 1975, 1976, 1983, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, and 1992, different cars carrying the Lancia shield and flag emblem won the World Rally Championship. The company, owned by parent company Fiat, spent millions on rallying – and the cars that brought it ultimate success couldn’t be more different from one another. In the 70s, it was the little FWD Fulvia that won the crown first, giving way to the snarling, mid-engined, Dino-powered Stratos supercar in later years. That car was replaced the RWD 307, which was based on the road-going Montecarlo, a sort of upscale, mid-engine commuter car of the MR2/Fiero variety that (due to copyright issues) was sold in the U.S. wearing the “Scorpion” nameplate. That car, too, was replaced – this time by a four-door hatchback called Delta, which propelled Lancia to its greatest era of rally dominance.

Lancia’s glory was unquestioned. Its sales, on the other hand, were dismal.

Sales were so dismal, in fact, that Lancia pulled out of the U.S. market after the 1982 model year, after just seven years in the market. Across the pond, the situation wasn’t much better. Despite some bright moments here and there, Lancia eventually pulled out of every single international market. Today, you can still buy a Lancia only in Italy – and the car available is a posh little hatch about the size of a Toyota Yaris called the Ypislon, or “Y” … as in, “Y bother?”

THE WRONG KIND OF MOTORSPORT

You might make the argument here that, well – that was rallying. Rallying is cool and all, but it’s a bit fringe, even for racing fans. Heck, if it wasn’t for Sony putting rally cars in Gran Turismo 2, most Americans under 40 might never have even heard of Lancia – and even fewer would know about Monster Tajima and his Pike’s Peak-conquering, twin-engine Suzuki racecars (which, while we’re at it, didn’t do much for Suzuki’s sales, either). Maybe rallying is the problem here, and not “motorsports”. Maybe we should be talking about drag racing.

Depending on who you believe, the term, “win on Sunday, sell on Monday” was actually coined by a Ford dealer named Bob Tasca. Tasca’s dealerships gave him a lot of juice with Ford back in the 1960s, and it was one of Tasca’s dragsters that introduced the Cobra Jet 428 engine to racing. And, to Bob, “win on Sunday, sell on Monday” was more than just a mantra – it was something he actually did.

When he wasn’t busy helping Carroll Shelby shoehorn a 289 c.i. Ford V8 under the hood of an AC Ace to create the very first Cobra, Tasca’s dealerships would modify brand-new Mustangs, then take them to New England drag strips to show them off before putting them right back on the showroom floor, with properly “augmented” price tags and genuine, racetrack-burned rubber Jackson Pollock’ed into the rear wheel wells.

Two generations later, Bob Tasca III is still drag racing Ford Mustangs in the NHRA Funny Car series. He’s been pretty successful, too, with 10 career wins (as I type this) and 28 final round appearances to his famous name – but, unlike his grandfather, the Mustangs Bob III is racing on Sunday are a far cry from the ones his family’s dealerships are selling on Monday.

All the same, it seems like the investment in drag racing is worth it for both Tasca and Ford.

“We are able to measure what our involvement does for selling vehicles,” explained head of global motorsport Mark Rushbrook, in an interview with Australia’s Which Car motor magazine. “As well as the difference between winning, and just being on the track. Winning is important for our customers, and instilling in them a sense of pride about owning a Ford vehicle.”

While I don’t have exact figures, it’s safe to say that Ford currently employs a lot of data scientists – and these people are smrt smart. Their research has led to a novel project in Germany that uses GPS and pedestrian traffic data to switch hybrid Fords between ICE and EV modes in order to minimize human exposure to exhaust fumes and maximize the potential for “green spaces” to scrub out carbon emissions. As such, if they say they can measure racing’s influence, I believe them.

IS IT JUST DRAG RACING, THEN?

Shifting gears, a bit, let’s turn our gaze to NASCAR, where Kyle Larson (a driver most famous for dropping the ‘n-word’ into a live iRacing event during the pandemic) was rewarded with a multiyear sponsorship deal that will put Hendrick Auto Group’s website on the hood of his racecar until 2023. Larson promptly won some races, which Hendrick says drove enough traffic to HendrickCars.com to equal $1.8 million in leads and over $5 million in television exposure.

“We’re having the best year we’ve ever had,” said Rick Hendrick, whose stores include the largest privately held dealership in the country. “The market is blazing.”

Sure, there’s probably a few cynics out there who will see Hendrick’s sponsorship and its success in terms of web traffic as something having more to do with NASCAR’s core audience supporting racism than a winning driver, but even they can’t deny that Larson makes headlines – and, in addition to “win on Sunday, sell on Monday”, there’s another famous saying that goes, “there’s no such thing as bad publicity.” Maybe there’s some of that at play here, too.

In the end, however, it’s not about whether winning actually sells cars – it’s about who believes that winning sells cars. Edsel Ford II, great-grandson of Henry Ford, is one of those people who believes.

“I’m old school so I guess I still believe that if you win on Sunday, then you do the best you can to sell on Monday,” Ford told APNews. “Winning is so important to us and we do the best job we can in marketing our victories to our customers, to our fans, and we hope that they will come in on a Monday and buy a Ford.”

As a racing fan, I hope they do, too – I need something to do on Sundays while everyone else in the Midwest is watching football.

OTHER FAMOUS SUNDAY WINNERS / MONDAY LOSERS

We picked on Lancia a little bit, here – but they’re not the only car company to win on Sunday only to shit themselves on the showroom floor on Monday. The history of motorsports is littered with the remains of brash, upstart carmakers who turned to racing in order to “prove themselves” against the established names in the industry. Some, like Warren Mosler’s Consulier GTP, eventually came to be appreciated in later years, despite fewer than a handful of those dominant race-winners ever finding buyers. Others, like the Chrysler-based Talbot Sunbeam Lotus, would still be laughed out of even the most forgiving of Facebook’s dedicated shitbox love-ins, despite wresting the World Rally Championship from the mighty fingers of Lancia and Audi in 1981. More recently, Marussia and Spyker both launched brands, built cars, spent their way into Formula 1, then petered out with barely a whisper of appreciation for – at least, in the case of the Spyker – their distinct takes on the supercar.

What do you think, dearest B&B – is there something to this whole motorsport = sales equation, or is this more a battle of fragile egos at the pinnacle of business trying to one-up each other in the press? And, if so, is that really even such a bad thing? Scroll on down to the comments and let us know.

[Image: AppleZoomZoom/Shutterstock.com]

Become a TTAC insider. Get the latest news, features, TTAC takes, and everything else that gets to the truth about cars first by subscribing to our newsletter.

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

27 Comments on “QOTD: If You Win on Sunday, Will You Sell on Monday?...”


  • avatar
    Garrett

    I think participating in racing is important, and it sends a signal that the brand is serious about performance.

    Even through the relationship of an F1 car to a road car is minimal (they both have four wheels), it certainly helped tilt my purchase consideration towards Alfa Romeo, even though they aren’t at the front of the grid – with the actual vehicle being what resulted in consideration turning into purchase.

  • avatar
    ajla

    0. I assume this was written by Jo, not Tim and the byline just needs updating.

    1. I think people look for too much of a direct “racing = $$$$” relationship when this comes up.
    a. I have super-secret insider knowledge to tell me that sponsoring a racing team or series isn’t *that* expensive so it’s not like you need mega-sales to justify it. You can also better schmooze clients by taking them to races or showing them Tony Stewart vacuum pump collection.
    b. You didn’t bring up swag. Not everyone can afford your fancy car but they can buy a Lamborghini watch or AMG sunglasses or a Lotus thong.
    c. Mopar got a lot of mileage out of “Hemi”.

    • 0 avatar

      Correct on all counts — as for “a”, it’s a question of expense vs. payout, right? Tudor’s sponsorship of IMSA in 2014 and 2015 effectively relaunched the brand in the US, from what I can tell (I don’t think I’d ever seen a Tudor watch in person, prior to 2015) and it makes sense for them. For a company like M&Ms or Doritos? It may not.

      Finally, Tony Stewart vacuum pump collection? WTF!? :D

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        I think for a Fritos or M&M’s it is fine because those are comparatively large companies selling low-priced consumer products. The whole idea is to worm the brand into someone’s mind so they pick it up next time you’re in Wawa.

        For brands like Tudor there’s obviously some demographic overlap between 4-figure watch nerds and “Gentlemen Racer” nerds so that works out.

        For a company like Vertex it probably only makes sense for company morale or dick-waving.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    QOTD: If You Win on Sunday, Will You Sell on Monday?

    A: Nope.

    Possibly, it used to, back when a racing car actually represented a chassis and drivetrain you could buy. Those days are long gone.

    Besides, the SUV/CUV-buying crowd doesn’t care a whit about a mfr’s racing efforts – and neither do I. I stopped watching racing years ago.

    Corollary statement: If pretty girls could sell cars, Mercury would be the best-selling badge today.

    All of this points to how out of touch mfrs are with the buying public today, and their TV/radio/print ads reflect it.

  • avatar
    JMII

    Considering most racing cars only share logos with consumer level dealership purchases Win on Sunday & Sell on Monday never made any sense to me. Do people really believe their Toyota Camry has anything to do with a RWD, stick shift, V8 stock car? There was a time when NASCAR used real cars, back then the saying made sense, but now they are custom made, one offs created by racing teams in dedicated shops. About the only series with a direct connection between their race car and your street car is the IMSA series and even those are so heavily modified its a bit of stretch.

    To me its about being fans of the brand, IE: if your a Ford guy you want to make sure the Chevy is always losing. Since drivers shift between teams I find auto racing is creeping more into that fantasy league driven fan-base like the NFL. Thus you no longer root for your “team” as much as cheer on certain players regardless of where they play.

    I mostly watch Indy Car and F1… and I’ve never purchased a vehicle based on which logo won any of those races. Am I happy when, as a Corvette owner, I see the C8.R spank a few Porsches? Sure, but it has zero influence over which car I bought. In fact its the other way around, I started playing closer attention to team Corvette AFTER I bought one. So Buy on Monday = Watch on Sunday.

  • avatar
    Lou_BC

    I doubt that “win on Sunday, sell on Monday” applies much to cars any more. Most people are sophisticated enough to know the difference between a race car and a street car even if the street car falls into a performance category.

    I know that with motorcycles it does have an effect. Motocross and Cross-country/wood’s bikes look close to identical to their race brethren. Technology isn’t that far removed but then again, an MX bike off the dealer floor is intended to be a mass produced race machine. Sport bikes tend to get a boost from racing as well.

  • avatar
    Superdessucke

    Between 1955-65 or so when pretty much everyone drove a GM, Ford, or Mopar full size land yacht and our country was more blue collar in overall nature, it was probably true to a point. A NASCAR stocker looked pretty much exactly like the car you could get in the showroom, and you could even get a detuned version of the same engine in your new car. You got a lot of bragging rights with your 409, 426 Hemi, or 427 side oiler. You could even get them in station wagons sometimes and pull a fast one on the Mrs. (pun intended).

    Today, it doesn’t matter one single minuscule iota. Most race cars have absolutely nothing in common with anything you can buy off the showroom floor. WRC is probably the closest, but those cars are modified well beyond the capability of the showroom version, and the sport isn’t overly popular in North America anyway. Further, most new CUV purchases are by people who don’t care a thing about racing, so I doubt it would be a selling point even if there was similarity.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      I think that the biggest selling point now are the “purists” or “hardcore” users increasing the brand prestige that attracts the “poser”/”appearance” buyer. You see this with Jeep. Hardcore off-roaders like the brand due to ease of modification. They use the vehicle’s full capabilities. This attracts the poser/wannabe types. This also applies to sports cars and even pickups. A core group of “true” users build the attraction to other casual or fantasy buyers.

      • 0 avatar
        Superdessucke

        Yes, I can see this. If the vehicle appears regularly in Tread or Four Wheeler, a buyer might be attracted to the “toughness” of the product even if he has no intention of even driving it off road. Ditto for the hot rod set (WRX, Mustang GT, Challenger/Charger and so on). This could be viewed as an evolution of the win Sunday sell Monday concept.

  • avatar
    Fred

    There is some racing that I don’t think sells. Cadillac for instance. Putting a GM motor in a prototype doesn’t sell me on the brand. I know that in the future they can change it to Chevy or Corvette for what ever reason marketing suggests. Now put your sedan up against BMW then maybe I’ll be interested.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    @Superdessucke–Completely agree that was a different era when the Detroit Big 3 ruled. You could also special order a performance package on many full size, midsize, and compact cars from the Big 3 without any added features or trims. You could order a Plymouth Belvedere or Dodge Coronet 2 door post sedan with hubcaps, radio delete, no air, no power anything with a hemi or a similar Chevy Biscayne or Ford Custom with a high performance engine. I don’t know of any national races that race cuvs or crossovers but I doubt most people that drive them would be influenced by which one would win a race. NASCAR has a truck racing circuit but there again few would choose a truck based on which one won a race–more likely which brand they were loyal to or which they liked the best for the price.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    The biggest win is the (income) tax dodge. Halo cars too.

    • 0 avatar
      Ol Shel

      Ding, ding, ding. Sponsors get a write off for advertizing costs, and a way to schmooze clients and ‘top performers’ in the company.Food and booze and hookers are written off, and everyone feels good knowing that the money helps those who deserve it most: other wealthy white men.

      Most of these race series have dozens and dozens of spectators. No rational company would think them a good way to promote their brand to the public. There’s obviously other reasons that include selfishness and tax loopholes.

  • avatar

    Interesting. what was/is wrong with Lancia? Or Alfa Romeo? The only Lancia I saw was Chrysler 300 and it did not look like Lancia would.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    What about F1 and/or Lemans? The winning F1 teams get paid by F1 to participate. For those with enough money, leaving sense aside, the cents are long gone, could owning a Ferrari or AMG Mercedes appeal to them because of F1 cachet? Can competitiveness at Lemans move Porches or Aston Martins?

  • avatar
    mcs

    “which was based on the road-going Montecarlo, a sort of upscale, mid-engine commuter car of the MR2/Fiero variety ”

    Uh, no. The second series of the Monte Carlo was capable of 0-60 in about 8 seconds and weighed about 2100 lbs. It had the same 0-60 as an L48 Corvette at the time. If anything, the Corvette with it’s weight was more of a 2 seat commuter. For the US version, there were shops that were correcting the performance issues in the US. I think there was shop in NY (Serra was the name I think) that was adding turbos. You had to change out the springs and brake servo as well.

    Even a Series 1 Scorpion was more of a sports car than the low end 75 Corvette of the era. I’ve driven a 75 Corvette (with the 3 speed auto) and a Montecarlo. There’s no comparison. The lighter weight of the Montecarlo made it a sports car. The Montecarlo was at home on the roads in southern France where I drove it. The Corvette I drove in Texas was pathetic and would have been a nightmare in France.

  • avatar
    Flipper35

    I would be willing to bet video games sell almost as many cars as racing on Sunday.

  • avatar
    Morea

    A winning racing program also builds morale WITHIN the larger company. It gives employees a team to root for on the weekends.

  • avatar
    bullnuke

    This “Win on Sunday, sell on Monday” was, in my view, relatively viable until the ’80s. There were the fast-back Monte Carlos of the ’80s built by GM to allow that form to be a NASCAR “stock car”, the raising of the trunk line of the Thunderbird for better “NASCAR” aerodynamics, etc. for the same reason. One of my neighbors in Navy Housing in Brememrton just had to have one of those fast-back Monte Carlos and he went into debt buying one. The real end of the “Win on Sunday…” was the move to FWD for most of the products to be sold on Monday. A RWD, 2-door Taurus that just won that race wasn’t available on Monday. Neither are the Cars of Tommorrow being promoted by NASCAR.

  • avatar
    drewtam

    IMSA & LeMans racing in the early 2000s to 2010s made me reconsider the Corvette brand. Changed my mind about their design qualification. Today a C6 sits in my driveway. It would not be there if not for that racing program.

  • avatar
    Syke

    Rick Hendrick Chevrolet/Buick/GMC customer here (Short Pump, VA dealership – a western suburb of Richmond), and while I’m a die-hard Formula 1, Formula E, MotoGP, and MotoAmerica Superbike fan, my wife has taught me to appreciate and enjoy NASCAR (well, at least until Junior retired), and I’ll watch a fair bit of other types of sports car racing, my loyalty to the dealership has very little to do with their racing exploits.

    It has everything to do with they’re being the only Chevrolet dealer in the Richmond area that not only takes their EV vehicles seriously, services them well, and actually acts like they’re happy to have them on the lot and sell them. The dealership has a rather good reputation with the local EV community, has trained salespeople who understand what it is they’re selling, and are setting themselves up to be in a good position as GM invariably slides towards total EV-ness.

Read all comments

Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • SoCalMikester: on a barrier island? id be more worried about sea level rise
  • jkross22: California now has 6 million more people today than were here in 2000. Total number of new power plants...
  • Inside Looking Out: “Not all car thieves are as dumb as some of the commenters.” Of course some of them...
  • Inside Looking Out: There is nothing sweet in Honda engines. They exude poison that kills all living creatures and...
  • Imagefont: Build thousands of homes in a forest that you know is going to burn. Then whine about forest fires burning...

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Who We Are

  • Adam Tonge
  • Bozi Tatarevic
  • Corey Lewis
  • Mark Baruth
  • Ronnie Schreiber