Luke West


Australian Muscle Car - - Induction -

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.

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