LEXUS will decide on its involvement in V8 Supercars for the 2017 season by the end of this year.
And the luxury brand ranks it’s chances of being on the heavily revised 2017 grid – complete with turbocharged engines, four-cylinders and V6s – as 50-50, according to Lexus Australia chief Sean Hanley, who spoke exclusively to Wheels.
“We’ll make a call over the next 12 months,” said Hanley, saying it would depend on eligibility for the yet-to-be-set Supercar rules that are proposed to come into effect in 2017.
“We’re very much in an evaluation year in relation to our ongoing involvement in terms of ever putting a car on the track. But it’s not something we’ll discount.”
Hanley was speaking at the announcement that Lexus will supply three cars to V8 Supercars organisers for the 2015 and 2016 seasons as part of a sponsorship deal for course cars.
“I won’t say that we’re going into V8 Supercar racing or entering a team, but I certainly won’t say we’re not either.”
Hanley said the chances of Lexus joining what was once a Ford versus Holden battle were “50-50”.
“Clearly we’ll use the next 12 months to evaluate the opportunities.
"I will look to motorsport to enhance our brand credentials, to enhance our brand consideration, particularly in the area of sports performance and sports luxury performance."
Despite disappointing sales for the four manufacturers pumping money into V8 Supercars – in 2014 Ford sales dropped 8.6 percent, Holden slid 5.3 percent, Volvo dropped 9.3 percent and Nissan 14.3 percent – V8 Supercars CEO James Warburton said the investment for a manufacturer was small in considering broader advertising spends.
“All the participating brands have all made public statements about the power of the platform for them,” Warburton told Wheels. “What you’ve got to remember is you’re talking about corporations that might have marketing budgets of close to $70 or $80 million … so the way it’s worked in terms of team sponsors and everything else, this is not a ridiculous investment for a manufacturer.
“This is about a third of buying an exclusively big [media] property such as The Voice.”
Lexus’s Hanley appears to be evaluating the professionalism and reach of V8 Supercars as much as the possibilities – and costs – of fielding a factory-backed team.
“This partnership … gives us a wonderful opportunity to be involved with V8 Supercars, to get a good understanding of the business of motorsport in Australia, particularly V8 Supercars and to understand the benefits that it could present to our brand in future,” he said.
“Our clear direction is to evaluate the motorsport landscape in Australia and to see first-hand the opportunities that motorsport may present to our brand, the opportunities it may present to our existing customers in terms of a great customer experience and the opportunities that it presents to our brands to get on the consideration list to those that are stepping up to luxury.”
Hanley said any involvement in motorsport would not be about “win on Sunday, sell on Monday”.
“I will look to motorsport to enhance our brand credentials, to enhance our brand consideration, particularly in the area of sports performance and sports luxury performance,” he said.
“We need to understand the benefits that this type of partnership in relation to a Lexus V8 Supercar entering the race, what sort of benefits that could deliver to our brand, in terms of enhancing our credentials.”