On the eve of V8 Supercar season’s race 5 and 6 on the streets of Hamilton, New Zealand next weekend and in view of the regulation formula car entering the competition next year, it is time to look at Australia’s major motorsport category in both national and international terms.
It is no secret that V8 Supercars are in a tight spot these days because of shrinking TV and track Box-Office sales over the last three years and their real need to consolidate the sport’s following in Australia and find new audience bases abroad. It is almost a year since the new regulation car was anointed as the uniform formula for all V8 Supercar design in the future, primarily to entice BMW, Mercedes and Toyota to join the ranks of Super-tourer racing.
To date, no new manufacturers have declared they will commit to the category. However, this may change as the category’s status is sanctioned internationally by the FIA and the new uniform engine formula is released later this year. If no other manufacturer comes into the fold to spice things up, it shall remain a Holden versus Ford series utilising the Commodore and Falcon road models as the only makes competing.
That situation may well eventually spell the end of the category in the future. The Falcon has been Ford Australia’s flagship for 50 years, but it’s now at the mercy of its American parent company which are considering pulling the pin in light of the Australian icon’s poor sales figures. In fact, the most disturbing fact is that the Holden Commodore is outselling the Ford Falcon 2 to 1 and that in marketing terms is courting with disaster.
Granted, the Ford-badged product won the 2010 V8 Supercar Championship, with Jim Beam Racing and driver James Courtney who was quickly lured to the opposition Holden Racing Team camp even before the celebrations began for Ford. Effectively it became the second year in a row (Vodafone Team 888 swapped makes in 2009) that GM Holden forked out enough cash to drive another nail in Ford’s coffin.
It is embedded in Australian motoring history that success on the race track equates to increased sales for the winning manufacturer which markets the race victory PR to leverage its products and keeping the dealer network healthy.
For the last two years race success has not translated into incremental sales for the Falcon! Few road-going factory SS Commodores and GT Falcons these days are sold with V8 engines and fewer still by both Factories specialist subsidiaries, Holden Special Vehicles (HSV) and Ford Performance Vehicles (FPV). Even the dubious FPV 335 kW to HSV’s 325 kW power output has not improved Ford Falcon GTP sales because these days the punters who buy the performance product look at the total package before going with high kilowatt figures which mean nothing for road going performance.
The worse is yet to come as Ford prepares to downsize its six-cylinder motor for a four-cylinder engine in the new EcoBoost Falcon and this move, no matter how environmentally correct it is perceived to be, is taking the Falcon further away from its V8 Supercar roots. Holden are committed to a new VF model Commodore in 2014, but unless Falcon sales increase soon it may become uneconomical for the Ford factory to retain the Falcon beyond another two to three years.
If, indeed, the Falcon goes from the Ford lineup, that will leave only one make of V8 Supercar, the Holden/HSV Commodore – Unless new manufacturers are found to fill in the void.