Honda enter grassroots racing to make money
As told to Gordon Kirby in last week's The Way It Is column:
"In my time in R&D and in the factory before that there were always racing clubs," HPD boss Erik Berkman. "Racing clubs became very popular, just like they are in Japan. Before I left Ohio, over many years there was a belief in supporting racers and growing Honda's brand and to ultimately maybe someday go toward a performance division, like AMG or M-Power, that would affect the road cars.
"We've put into business plans ideas which began before my time under Robert (Clarke) which was a need to go towards supporting grassroots motorsports. Last year, in my first year at HPD, we studied and prepared to roll out the next business plan for the next fiscal year. In January and then March and May we went to the very top of American Honda's management.
"We involved lots lawyers and company leaders with elevated titles. We looked at this thing from every angle and after a lot of hard work we got formal approval to go. A team of people was put together about this time a year ago and we finally got approval in May."
Berkman explained how Honda's grassroots racing program will work. "What we're going to do in grassroots motorsports is support racers who run Honda and Acura products. You have to be an active racer, have a logbook, and be a member in good standing with one of the sanctioning bodies. We're going to have the ability to sell them parts and engines and race cars--whatever ultimately comes of this. "Right now, the only way you can buy something from us is to go to a Honda dealer and we argue that we don't want to sell our racing engines, or parts, to racers through our dealers. Of course there are a lot of dealer franchise laws and so forth that had to be investigated.
"We've got a phased plan of introducing components and engines. At some point we want to introduce a turn-key racing conversion where you can buy the car from the factory and also buy everything from roll cage to brakes, engine and so forth, and offer that to you at a fair price so we can make our margin and you would get a better deal than if you had to do it on your own."