It’s hard not to like former General Motors vice chairman Bob Lutz. The 83-year old auto exec was born in Switzerland before moving to the United States and flying planes in the Marine Corps, he can speak five languages, and he helped bring cars like BMW 3-Series, Dodge Viper and fourth-generation Pontiac GTO to life. However he recently made statements in his usual column at the back of Road & Track magazine which seemed a touch out of character.
As Motorsport reports, Lutz isn’t a fan of manufacturer sponsored racing. If the former GM employee were in charge of a major automaker today, he would “no longer spend the money – not on Formula 1 nor any other open-wheel series, the DTM, any sedan series, and most certainly not on NASCAR,” according to May’s R&T issue.
During his time at Chrysler in the 90s, he was “able to stave off,” dropping major money on NASCAR sponsorship, but notes “the door barely slammed behind me before Dodge signed up for major sponsorship.” Later in his career working for GM Lutz said he was “vocal in my disdain for Pontiac’s and Chevrolet’s NASCAR involvement,” saying it wasn’t helping Pontiac sales in the slightest.
There’s no doubt manufacturer sponsored racing is big bucks, but in some cases, not all, we think it can pay off. Any Corvette Racing team member will tell you there are hoards of Corvette owners who love to see their cars beat Ferraris and Porsches on the racetrack, and the spirit of the brand might not be there if it weren’t for the manufacturer backed team. This is true for other automakers as well, such as Ferrari, McLaren and BMW.
Lutz thinks the main reason manufacturer sponsor racing teams and programs is they want “the VIP treatment.” According to him, “wining and dining, meeting drivers, touring the track,” and other opportunities are “bestowed on mid-level executives who fund the programs out of their marketing budgets. We’re not so sure about that, but there are hundreds of Team Chevy fans who would be happy to tell him he’s underestimating manufacturer backed racing’s benefit.