In past decades, the cars flying around racetracks looked pretty similar to the car your dad drove – and his dad too, for that matter. Yet in the past twenty years or so, technological advances have changed racing cars beyond recognition.
This makes it harder to understand why manufacturers of road vehicles continue to pour so much money into motor sports. How can car manufacturers expect us, the consumers, to see any association between those state-of-the-art vehicles and the ones we view in the showroom?
The answer is simple: in effect, the manufacturers are sponsoring themselves. Instead of sponsoring an elite performer so that they can benefit from reflected glory, they are spending money to create that glorious elite performance vehicle and benefit directly.
The fact is that the marketing rewards achieved through big wins are enormous. The brand’s profile is raised and the car company’s name is linked to top performance. Even though the cars’ bodies, chassis and engines may be radically different, consumers recognise that even a small percentage of that excellence built into their own cars has got to be worth paying for.
That’s why we don’t see the racetrack winners in the television adverts. Instead, we see Joe Normal having driving adventures on country roads, or Jane Be-Nice being radical while driving the kids to school. A piece of performance and technological excellence has been injected into their every day lives.
Hyundai understand that. For the South Korean manufacturer, there’s another benefit: big wins give the brand credibility against its older, well-established European rivals. This month, Belgian Thierry Neuville drove a Hyundai i20 to victory in the manufacturer's first attempt at the German Rally. Meanwhile, Rhys Millen brought in a win for Hyundai in the main event at the 2014 Red Bull Global Rallycross at the Daytona International Speedway.
Having only entered the American market in the late 1980s, Hyundai is now the second largest Asian car company after Toyota, and fourth largest car manufacturer in the world. These wins show us that not only is the company a force to be reckoned with, but that it is a leader in motor performance as well as showroom sales.
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