NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Voices From the Heartland: Is It Time for Ford to Step Down?

It was recently announced that the Ford Motor Company set an absolutely amazing company record last year. They recorded a $12.7 BILLION loss last year! That’s not a misprint, folks… BILLION. Not thousands… not millions… you get the picture.

As far back as April of last year, rumors have run rampant that one manufacturer was on the brink of pulling out of NASCAR. Back then, after GM announced a $10.6 billion loss for 2005, many speculated that Chevy would be the one to pull out. Of course, GM vehemently denied such talk, putting to bed the same type of rumors that Ford is now facing with increasing intensity.

“We’re here in NASCAR and we’re here to stay,” said GM’s NASCAR Director, Pat Suhy, back in April of 2006. “It makes good business sense for us to be here. We get a great return on our investment. We have a lot of activation around this… around the country with our dealers and our regional dealer groups. And we have great sponsorship partners with our teams. So if there is any truth to that [GM pulling out], I don’t know about it.”

While Pat did not explain what “activation” actually means in “big-business terms” to us laymen, I must assume, since I could not afford to have all of my common sense removed by what is known as “higher education,” aka college, that it must be something good. However, later in the year when GM announced that the Impala will eventually replace the Monte Carlo as NASCAR heads towards the Car of Tomorrow, they inadvertently let the cat out of the bag that the reason was because the Impala has finally outpaced the Monte Carlo in domestic sales.

That’s a complete 180-degree turnaround from the long-held adage “win on Sunday, sell on Monday;” why would you put your higher-selling car model out on the track if your primary goal was to increase overall sales? So Chevy, at least, seems like it’s being somewhat honest with itself as to why they are racing. Ford on the other hand appears to still have denial issues the likes of which would make a statement by Kyle Busch accepting blame for an accident seem more likely.

“There was no problem,” said Dan Davis, director of Ford’s Racing Technology, when asked how he got his 2007 racing budget approved in the face of such large losses by the company as a whole. “This is something that the people at the top levels of the company believe is a positive force for Ford. You don’t stop your marketing in hard times… you work harder to market the product. I feel like all we really need is 10 good cars, and we have nine now. They’re not all as strong as we’d like them to be, but we feel like we’re close. We would like to win 25% of the races on a consistent basis, and I feel like we’re within striking distance.”

So, there you have it, folks. The answer to all of FoMoCo’s problems, and their justification for the rumored $100 million (I suspect much higher) spent on NASCAR despite record losses and massive layoffs (40,000-plus), is putting just ONE more good Fusion on the track! That’ll get that $12.7 billion back in a hurry.

In Ford’s defense, it seems that their problems may not be all their fault. In fact, it may be due to genetics.

“I can assure you Ford does not plan on getting out of NASCAR. Our racing program has support at the highest levels of the company, and our research and data has shown conclusively that there’s a viable business case for us being involved in the sport in terms of our market share and purchase consideration among race fans. Racing is part of the Ford DNA and has been since Henry Ford raced back in 1901,” said Kevin Kennedy, Ford’s public affairs manager for racing in April of 2006.

Well, since 1901, medical science has proven that many bad things can result from a defective strand of one’s DNA. Perhaps, now that Viagra is no longer sponsoring a Ford, top level executives might not have such a hard (core urge) for racing. Maybe now they can get the medication they need, as racing in NASCAR will NOT stop the bleeding for ANY automobile manufacturer, no matter who it is.

Stay off the wall,

Jeff Meyer

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