Keeping it Off The Wall

No Salesman will call

 by Ed Donath 
August 23, 2000

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How many companies' products or services get sold as a result of the activities or actions of a competing company? Back in the Dark Ages when Japanese import vehicles first landed on our shores it was Japan's Big Two - Toyota and Nissan (then called Datsun) - that quickly achieved the deepest penetration of the American market.

When the prices of popular Celicas and 240Z's skyrocketed in one year from $6000 to $10000 many otherwise satisfied Toyota and Datsun owners were hard pressed to find a reason not to give carmakers with even odder-sounding brand names like Honda, Subaru and Mazda a try. The workmanship of these products compared well with more expensive Japanese cars so most crossovers enjoyed more of the same trouble-free performance to which they had grown accustomed. As smart shoppers they certainly enjoyed saving thousands of dollars as a byproduct of switching brands.

F1 has long epitomized the crème de la crème of open-wheel racing. Europeans, in particular, have proudly supported the sport with a fervor that surpasses the temporal loyalty that early Datsun lovers and Toyotaphiles had for their cars. However, F1's waning entertainment value - "bang for the buck" in American car guy lingo - has, in recent years, led many competition-starved European F1 fans into the Champ Car camp. 

The late-eighties turbocharged Mitsubishi Starion - judged by any criteria - was a pretty hot ride. But in the bang-for-the-buck department, when compared with classmates Supra and 280ZX, it was a hands-down winner. A similar analogy can be created with a comparison of present-day CART and F1.

CART has been steadily building an international following for its more straightforward brand of high-powered open-wheel racing. Though many results-oriented critics believe that too little is being done now to salvage and/or pique American interest in Champ Car racing, there are many of us who are able to visualize a developing long-term picture. We are sure that this ever-shrinking planet, worldwide mass communications, global economy and extremely strong bang-for-the-buck performance of our series will enable Champ Car racing to establish and perpetuate a reciprocating circle of international and domestic fan interest.

The good news is that CART does not need to expend an ounce of effort to sell its product directly against ForMoola One. 

F1's hyper-politics and generally predictable parades have already blown enough fans out of the showroom to have given CART its necessary starter core of international crossovers. Sticker shock - limited bang-for-the-buck (Pound, Mark, Lira, Franc, etc.) - was the impetus for so many European fans to shop the competition in the first place. As long as converts continue to like what they see in our series the success of CART's global appeal is assured.

The potentially bad news is that Championship Auto Racing Teams - if it continues to act as a salesman for another open-wheel series - risks losing or confusing potential and existing fans.

Did F1 crossovers come to be Champ Car fans because of the Indy 500? 

Despite losing a few fans to CART, does F1 ever publicly acknowledge the existence of CART in ANY manner? 

Does the IRL possess any Starion-like qualities? 

Why can't CART treat Formula Inheritor in the same manner as it is being appropriately treated by F1?

Cheaper is better when bang-for-the-buck makes it so. Unfortunately, any product's excellence and value can be tainted and diminished by association with inferior products.

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