FOCUS – OEMs Bank on Racing in R&D and the Dealership

Not only does racing improve the breed, but there’s an old saying that “What wins on Sunday sells on Monday” – provided the dealership is open on Monday. How direct is the relationship of racing success to sales, and how vital is racing to a company’s success?
“Racing has an effect on sales, but you can’t measure it directly,” said Brad Banister of Yamaha Motor Corp. USA. “Sales are based more on styling and magazine tests.”
“Racing improves the breed and shows how great our engineers are,” said Robert Pandya of Aprilia/Moto Guzzi. “Aprilia’s reputation grew from racing, and as a representative of our U.S. affiliate we were sad to see our Superbike team fold. We now compete in World Endurance, and the Tuono Racing was built to compete in the Naked Cup, a class Guzzi won a championship in a few years ago. Racing is absolutely woven into what our company is about, and we’ll see a welcome return to racing from our Aprilia Corse department.”
“The GSX-R was introduced 20 years ago as a racebike for the street,” said glenn Hansen of American Suzuki Motor Corp. “’Own the Racetrack’ is the tag line that’s in all our ads, and our sportbikes are shown on the track in our ads. We put a lot of effort into having the right racers and teams. We owe so much to our streetbikes from what the racers do in development.
“Still, we know that a large percentage of GSX-R buyers don’t race, and may not even follow racing. Even if people don’t know who Mat Mladin is, they still want that performance.”
“From the resources we’ve put behind AMA Superbike racing, one can see that we can consider it very important,” said Michael Lock, CEO of Ducati North America. “We believe that the excitement created at the track has a direct relationship to what happens in the showroom. We roll out the red carpet for our owners at the AMA tracks. Come and show a Ducati key and we’ll serve you lunch, soft drinks, water, provide a gear check and have a special parking area. We make a clear link between what we do at that track and what we do on the street.”
But does that lead to sales?
“More than anything it is a defensive move,” replied Locke. “We do it to assure the Ducatisti that they’re in the right club. In the superbike market all the bikes are good, so it’s less about customer acquisition and more about ‘we’re the racing company’ rather than the competitors who make everything from motorcycles to lawn mowers.”

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