TGoing Ford is the going thing
hey’re in. They’re out. They’re in again. They’re out again. Ford is currently in domestic racing, but by this time next year will be out again. Well, sort of. Let me explain. In early December 2014 Ford Australia announced that its funding of V8 Supercar activities would end at the conclusion of the 2015 season. The move continues a familiar pattern to Ford’s involvement in Australian motorsport over the last five decades.
Judging by the mass hysteria post announcement, you would think the world is coming to an end. I, however, don’t think it’s as big a deal as many are suggesting. In fact, blue bloods could be in a much better position than they might immediately think.
Firstly, history shows that blue oval-badged cars have continued to be raced in the premier categories and races regardless of Ford’s official involvement and funding. Allan Moffat, John Goss and Murray Carter flew the flag during the XB era, while Dick Johnson was the blue knight through the 1980s. Please excuse the metaphor; knights are top of mind right now.
Ford Performance Racing (aka Prodrive Racing Australia) or DJR Team Penske could field Fords well into the future – Falcons for the next couple of years, Mustangs or another model thereafter. Who knows what business case might present itself.
That could be a dealer-backed team, a Mustangenhancement venture or simply strong corporate backing that makes flying the flag for the legions of Ford fans viable. Perhaps there’s a Betty Klimenkotype character reading this – attention all mining magnates – who will buy a team just to ensure Fords remain on the grid. Crowdfunding? That seems all the rage right now. With his Ford US connections, the American racing and automotive industry powerhouse Penske could make just about anything happen. The flipside, of course, is that DJR Team Penske will be a magnet for other manufacturers.
In any case, Ford at least has the Mustang coming on stream, a car with a competition pedigree that almost begs to be raced. Perhaps a GT3 version will be developed, with the sportscar class becoming the premier series. That would certainly work for me. V8 Supercars’ survival is by no means a given.
Who knows, the new rules currently being shaped by V8 Supercars – ‘run what you want as long as it has four seats and is front-engined’ – might even entice Ford back into local competition. Unlikely, given the direction Ford Australia wants to take with its marketing, but not beyond the realms of possibility.
All this brings me to another point that needs to be made: the long-term motorsporting forecast for Holden fans ain’t looking that flash either. Holden’s funding is only guaranteed for another season or two beyond Ford’s – essentially to the end of the VF Commodore’s lifespan. Who knows after that? General Motors suits might even phase the Holden name out in the medium-term. Nothing is guaranteed.
In the short-term though, as usual, Ford’s misery has Holden smelling like roses in a PR sense. It’s partly good management, partly good luck.
That tide could turn, with Holden motorsport enthusiasts having less to cheer about in five years time. At least Ford enthusiasts have certainty that the famous badge will live on and that the Mustang will grace showrooms. I appreciate that this column is filled with IFs, but that’s my very point. There are no future guarantees about makes, models, rules, racing categories, whatever.
Frankly, I don’t blame Ford for pulling the pin on V8 Supercars. The company long ago came to the conclusion that the vast majority of those cheering Frosty and Co don’t buy new (or near new) cars. And if they do, they are not necessarily loyal to Ford.
In fact, Ford has realised that a large slab of its potential customer base – i.e. women – is actually turned off by motor racing. I almost get the impression Broadmeadows is just too polite to spell this out.
How long before Holden comes to the same conclusion?
To this end, what role has boganism played in killing demand for Australian-built cars? After all, those with the coin to buy new cars want to distance themselves from folk – often wearing Holden and Ford gear – you seen running amok on A Current Affair.
I’m not casting aspersions on racing fans – of which I am one – merely highlighting that the perception the general public holds of Bathurst and V8 Supercar racing is not necessarily all positive. Such perceptions shape buying habits.
Conversely, ask yourselves how many new or near new cars have been bought by devotees most up in arms about Ford’s latest move? Or are likely to be bought in the future by those really firing up?
Social media is filled with comments bordering on the ridiculous, such as “I was going to buy an XR8 next year, but now I won’t.” And suggestions that racing fans will now boycott the brand are a massive oversimplification of new car buying habits.