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Keeping It Off the Wall
by Ed Donath

In General…
6/10/04

Athens, NY—While the legendary General Tso has become nearly as synonymous as Colonel Sanders is with tasty chicken, General Motors continues to put beef into his auto product recipes. Recently, GM made a surprising announcement regarding future marketing of 2005-and-beyond Cadillac models in, of all places, China.

With China’s emergence as the world’s third largest auto market behind the USA and Japan—in which by the year 2020 some 20 million vehicles will be sold annually—its huge bicycle and rickshaw-riding population appears to be heading rapidly toward a highly motorized culture similar, perhaps, to that of the West’s.

That our Detroit-based General anticipates success with three upscale Cadillac models (the CTS high-performance luxury sedan; the SRX crossover luxury sport sedan/SUV; the Corvette-based XLR luxury roadster) also validates reports of a changeover to a consumer economy in China.

But before we make the quantum-leap assumption that yuppie Chinese car guys with spending money burning holes in their pockets are ripe enough to picket for a Champ Car street race around the new Caddy factory in Shanghai, we must first allow the car culture in China to mature a bit. Certainly, Asian racecar drivers, sponsors, and engine/chassis technologists must be carefully nurtured.

Meanwhile, however, as we witness the ongoing increase of multi-national auto companies’ involvement with the Chinese people, the Champ Car community must be prepared to seize any economic opportunities that may present themselves in China.

In our ever-widening world economy, companies like Cadillac—especially if GM plans to continue emphasizing performance oriented products in China and other emerging markets—will recognize a financially sound Champ Car World Series as an excellent marketing partner.

Champ Car must place the highest priority on acquiring a multiplicity of automakers’ engines ASAP. Why? Because OWRS’ stated business plan revolves around cooperative efforts with national and municipal governments around the globe.

Therefore, with races being held on every inhabited continent at some point in the future, the ability to feature dominant automotive brands of each geographical region not only adds an important element that stimulates fan interest but it will also help create many of the all-important cross-marketing opportunities that international sports require.

This related story reports that General Motors' aggressive China policy will pit it against Europe's leading producer Volkswagen, which currently enjoys a 33% market share in China and sells more cars there than in its home market of Germany. Ford also recently announced a $1 billion new investment, DaimlerChrysler signed a $1.23 billion deal, and Toyota, Nissan, Honda, and Hyundai have announced $10 billion in new China investments.

It is foolish and parochial to ignore the fact that similar carmaker dramas will be playing themselves out in South America, Europe, Mexico, Australia, and Asia where the Champ Car World Series ultimately hopes to achieve success. Additionally, automotive sub-industries that might come on board on the coattails of engine manufacturers will help to fill the sponsorship void created by international tobacco products legislation.

In short, Champ Cars of the future must feature the engines of many and varied manufacturers to ensure survival of the series. Anything less and we’ll be talking about…

…just another chicken outfit.

Copyright © 2004 by Ed Donath and Deep Throttle. All Rights Reserved.

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