GM Racing Winston Breakfast Club Part 1 of 2 STEVE SHANNON, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR - MARKETING SERVICES, NORTH AMERICAN VEHICLE SALES, SERVICE & MARKETING, GENERAL MOTORS INITIAL THOUGHTS ON SPEEDWEEKS: "I think it's been a good week. I think GM,...
Winston Breakfast Club
Part 1 of 2
STEVE SHANNON, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR - MARKETING SERVICES, NORTH AMERICAN VEHICLE SALES, SERVICE & MARKETING, GENERAL MOTORS
INITIAL THOUGHTS ON SPEEDWEEKS: "I think it's been a good week. I think GM, in general, is a company with incredible momentum and that applies, certainly, to racing, in general and NASCAR in particular. We were very pleased with the way we ended up last season. I think with the exception of the Craftsman Truck Series manufacturers' [championship], we pretty much won every driver [title], every manufacturer's [title] and every rookie of the year [title], so we're excited to be back this year with both our Pontiac and Chevrolet [brands] with some great teams.
"Maybe just one point on the rules: first of all, ultimately we're after the same thing NASCAR is, which is good, close racing, great entertainment and a great show. We are absolutely totally aligned with them on that. By the same token, probably the No. 1 thing that a manufacturer wants in any series, besides the sort of marketing and brand benefits, is some rules stability. Obviously, that has been a little bit more challenging, here of late. We'd like to get to a more stable [situation], which I think we will endeavor to work toward."
ARE THE RULES CHANGES WE'VE SEEN JUST FOR TV? "I don't think so. We'd like to think as, generally, the biggest spender, we'd like to think that always goes in our favor, but maybe this is a clear example of how it doesn't. I think good, close racing is what we want, year-in year-out, track-in track-out. I wouldn't overplay the theory that whoever buys the most TV spots gets the most support. I don't really think that is the case. I don't agree with that necessarily."
WOULDN'T YOU RATHER BEAT THE COMPETITION ON THE TRACK INSTEAD OF IN THE INSPECTION BAY? "Absolutely. This is both important because it does make a difference - you heard about a quarter of an inch that makes a significant difference. So, on one hand, it's important for us to work on this, but at the same time it's a little bit of a sideshow to the real race. At least to the competitors in the group, we just want to get out and race. We'll hope that we can work on [rules] stability over time, but at the end of it all we have to go and race and that is what we'll focus on."
IF EVERY CAR IN THE WINSTON CUP SERIES WAS EXACTLY ALIKE, WOULD GM BE INTERESTED IN PARTICIPATING? "We're in this to build our brands, to sell cars and to create a positive reputation for GM. Clearly the more GM content - either hardware or intellectual capital, so to speak, in engine design or in wind tunnel consulting - the more that is in that in real terms, the more interested we are in participating.
"We don't know where the common template thing is going to go, but over time, as we understand what the exact implications of that are - if you run it out all the way to what is a spec car, I think you'd be safe to say that we would not be interested or nearly as interested in it as we are today. But no one quite knows what the definition of 'common template' is.
"We talk a lot about making comparisons between the production car and the race car. Some of those are tenuous. But the fact that there is an awful lot of GM engineering, technical competence - Doug [Duchardt] and his team, wind tunnel guys, engine guys - that are contributing to teams and helping make that win is critically important to us. We know consumers believe that and understand that. Last year, as an example, we won more races in more different kinds of racing - from '24 hours' to '4.7 seconds - that's a very compelling idea for consumers. What we discover is that you don't even need to torch your data and you don't need to point to one widget on the race car and one widget on the production car. There is an overall understanding of technical competence that helps you win and how that technical competence is part of the culture of the company and helps your production car, in one form or fashion, be better.
"It's a long answer to say that we're not interested in a spec series. Having real, added value in a series does interest us. To that extent, we'll have to wait and see how the common template unfolds, just what that means."
DO YOU EVER SEE A POINT WHERE THE RULES CHANGES WOULD FRUSTRATE YOU ENOUGH THAT GM WOULD LEAVE THE SERIES? "I sure don't. I don't want to understate some of the concerns that we have about [rules] stability, but I think we're a long, long way from that kind of anxiety or frustration. Hopefully, all of this can be worked out among reasonable people to both give consumers and fans the kind of close racing and safe racing that is critical, but at the same time, preserve some of the kinds of stability that we need, that our teams need. But, I think we're a long ways from that sort of 'doom and gloom' scenario, I hope."
BOB KRAUT, BRAND MANAGER, PONTIAC GRAND PRIX, FIREBIRD AND BONNEVILLE:
WHAT IS THE STATUS OF THE NEW PONTIAC DESIGN? "We can confirm that we are working on a car. It's too early to talk about the details of that, but we will have a car at this time next year to run in Daytona if everything goes OK with the NASCAR officials."
HOW DOES PONTIAC FEEL ABOUT ONLY HAVING FIVE WINSTON CUP TEAMS? "We could add teams. We could add 'B' teams and 'C' teams, etc., but that is not what we're about. We want to have a good, core team of people that can win on any given day. We've chosen to take a path of quality over quantity. The question really is less [so] for us, but more-so a question to teams as they are shopping us because we're going to have a new race car in '03."
KURT RITTER, GENERAL MANAGER, CHEVROLET:
IS THERE A POINT WHERE THE PROBLEMS OF A COMMON TEMPLATE SYSTEM MIGHT MAKE YOU THROW UP YOUR HANDS AND SAY BRAND IDENTITY IS OUT? "Well, certainly the Monte Carlo having all horizontal surfaces here on the racetrack and in the showroom helps us leverage the brand. The people who buy Monte Carlo really understand that. So if that was not there, the brand becomes less leveragable, less identifiable to the consumer and our success in the showroom would depend on things other than racing. We'll have to go other ways to make the promise work for the customer."