New money and old money
AVL is the world’s largest private, independent developer of powertrain systems, with interests that encapsulate both traditional and alternative technologies in both automotive and racing sectors.
In the opinion of Michael Resl, director of motorsports, marketing and lead development, the future direction of elite racing is going to be built around how series balance the interests of traditional automotive manufacturers with the need to attract new money.
“I think the challenge for the future is going to be attracting the big fish into your racing series,” he says. “Whoever builds the platform that’s attractive for the Teslas, the Nextevs, the Googles and the Apples, while at the same time looking after the needs of the VWS, the Mercedes, the Porsches, will be the winner from an organisational standpoint. But that’s tricky. A series like F1 can’t afford to not cater for new entrants, while something like Formula E can’t just kick around with its current electric vehicles waiting to see how the market works out. It’s going to be very interesting.
“The worst thing that could happen is if F1 sticks to traditional F1, NASCAR sticks to traditional NASCAR, and Formula E sticks to being what it is now. I believe the new entrants that are potentially out there may look away from racing for their marketing activities if that’s the case. This is the danger.”
Founded in the 1940s, AVL now employs 9,000 people worldwide and has a revenue north of one billion euros. It has always been involved in motorsports, but since 2012 has had a specific motorsports brand: AVL Racing. It works across all the elite motorsport series, providing engineering services, simulation, component manufacturing and testing as well as a range of on-track optimisation services. Resl says the diversification between strands of motorsport is already very clear.
“There are dramatically different business approaches out there now. NASCAR: more or less traditional; F1: trying to combine the technologies; Formula E… doesn’t give a sh*t about old technology! And it is interesting seeing how that affects the market. In European structures it’s common to see motorsport activities placed under R&D within organisations – but American organisations usually put motorsport within marketing. These are two very different styles of structure and two quite different sets of motivations for racing.”
Resl argues that, far from being a cause for concern, the growing diversity in the industry is a healthy thing for a company like AVL.
“It’s in the nature of our business to be flexible, especially in racing,” he says. “The wider the spectrum, the better for us. It’s not the case that innovation in EV means there isn’t innovation in IC. We’re seeing tremendous ideas, tremendous innovation and great concepts all over the place. It seems everybody is working flat out in all aspects.”