A Big Boo to Volvo

 Word came recently that Volvo is going to pull out of racing because, according to Director of Marketing Alain Visser, because it "does not conform with our brand, where we stand for smaller engines and safety."  Sorry, M. Visser, but why is a commitment to smaller engines and safety not compatible with racing? Perhaps if a company was trying to represent itself as super-green I could see the case. Isn't every manufacturer committed now to smaller engines, even the likes of BMW and Mercedes-Benz? Ford keeps putting smaller and smaller turbo engines into larger and larger vehicles, yet Ford Racing is alive and well. For the reasons cited, I, for one, cannot follow the logic.

Gone are the days when one could make the argument for racing that it somehow provided trickle down improvements into production vehicles. That does not mean that a case cannot be made that a brand is enhanced with a presence in motorsport. Is Mercedes concerned that  its recent success on Formula 1 will somehow conflict with the message of its new, small-engined car, the CLA, or its commitment to safety? I doubt it. I suppose that one must consider why any manufacturer associates itself with racing. In a very few cases, perhaps only Ferrari, racing is inseparable  from the brand. With virtually all other car makers, can racing be anything other than a marketing tool, a very loud sort of product placement? Or, as I suspect, is motorsport there not so much to return value to shareholders as it is for those in the company to have some fun, to have something which to cheer.

Therefore, I think it is safe to say that racing probably doesn't make a lot of sense as a business consideration if you build cars. Who cares? Not me. Cheering for a racing team is like cheering for any other sporting team. If you happen to be a stakeholder, like you drive a Volvo and you go to touring car races or V8 Supercars in Australia, you probably feel extra good if a Volvo gets to the podium. It's natural. Do many Volvo drivers, outside Scandinavia, follow racing? That I do not know.

In the end, I could have easily accepted if M. Visser had announced that Volvo was no longer going to invest in motorsport as a financial and budget consideration. Racing is expensive, at every level. If it was not so, more would do it. To say, though, that it was no longer compatible with Volvo's commitment to smaller engines and safety does not seem earnest. Do zillion dollar  yachts crashing in shark infested waters represent something especially Volvo? No, and I see nothing wrong with the support of the Ocean Race. There will certainly be Volvos racing even when Volvo withdraws. Has anyone at Volvo ever considered that safety and sensibility do not preclude fun? Volvo has for a long time convinced the planet they make safe cars. In the coming years they will demonstrate they can make efficient cars. Volvo 's biggest challenge remains that they need to show the world that for all their virtues, Volvo cars can be pleasurable and exciting, and isn't that what racing brought to the table?
Categories: Volvo, Commentary
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