New Dodge CEO says NASCAR program can help

UPDATE A reader writes, Dear AR1, So the new boss of Dodge thinks that NASCAR is the place to sell his products because 30% of the fans are between 18 and 34 years old. Hmmm. Well that is probably close to the population demographic as a whole. So how that makes NASCAR special is kind of beyond me.

But more importantly, what Dodge models aside from the Challenger does Mr. Gilles think these people are going to purchase. Especially based on the crap wagons that run in circles every week?

He says they are the sports car brand but neither their current line up or the excuse for race cars that NASCAR runs spell sports car to me.

Back in the days when the cars were racing versions of real models sold in show rooms there was obviously a very strong case for involvement in the sport.

But as a consumer I fail to see any connection other than some kind of brand loyalty between the pathetically ancient machines in NASCAR and the (pathetically ancient) cars Dodge currently sells.
And as for brand loyalty, that went out the window with the boiler plate cars that race now. My guess is that driver loyalty trumps brand loyalty nowadays as teams switch from manufacturer to manufacturer on a regular basis.

Just so you don't get the wrong idea…I own a Dodge (Caravan) and a 1971 Super Bee….so I am a big Dodge fan (although with my caravan falling apart at the seams after only 75k miles I'm not sure how long that will last.)

I would be really interested to know how much of our hard spent tax dollars this program swallows each year…but I am sure it would cover the cost of many layoffs, downsizings and other essentials that have been slashed by this government run car company.

I am not for one second denying the value of racing on Sunday and selling on Monday.

But when the cars used on Sunday are cookie cutter boxes differentiated by a few decals and those sold on Monday are just plain boring boxes I'd suggest that first off, Dodge's and NASCAR's time and effort should be directed at bringing both vehicle lines into the 21st century. Ray Masters, Hawaii

12/05/09 New Dodge Chief Executive Officer Ralph Gilles took a tour of Penske Racing on Monday, an experience he deemed eye-opening and educational as he tries to turn himself from a casual NASCAR fan to someone whose company’s marketing strategy embraces the sport.

Gilles replaced Mike Accavitti as CEO in October, and while he has a motorsports background as an amateur spec racer, his knowledge of NASCAR was limited. A big Formula One fan, Gilles had paid his most attention to NASCAR when it ran on road courses, finding it fascinating watching the stock cars shifting body weight and jumping curbs.

“As soon as I got the job, I dug into NASCAR because I believe we would stick with it and I wanted see [how we can] really maximize the benefit," Gilles said in a meeting with reporters Friday prior to the 2009 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Awards Ceremony. “I am pleased to find out that 30 percent of the people that watch NASCAR are between 18 and 34 years old, so that’s a very core part of the customer base we’re trying to reach going forward.

“NASCAR is a great way to underscore Dodge’s personality. We’re positioning as a sports-car brand as well, not just a minivan brand. We want to amp up, so to speak, our fun-to-drive component and being involved in NASCAR is a natural fit."

“We don’t have endless resources," Gilles said. “At the end of the day, we have to really watch our dollars these days so by teaming up with … Penske, we’re doing a better service to ourselves."

“Being there is half the battle and how you present it, how you feature it," Gilles said. “On our Web site, there isn’t enough presence of NASCAR. I’d like to see more of it on the Web and connect our racing and our commercial side together."

“If you can get your product in front of that many eyeballs, you can’t go wrong," Gilles said. “Even though it’s not as measurable, it’s definitely just as beneficial as a car commercial for us. The trick is for us to be winning, to be up front, to get our name out there.

“A big part of it is business, but the whole thing is a business. But a lot of it is passion, too."

“I would like to see over the next, maybe, four or five years, we see that [manufacturer identity] happen on Sundays," Gilles said in reference to Sprint Cup cars. Full story at

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