Companies

Car makers look to lap up F1 glory

Roudra Bhattacharya New Delhi | Updated on May 29, 2011




Auto companies involved in Formula One (F1) racing are planning a variety of brand-building initiatives around the first Indian Grand Prix scheduled this October.

Carmakers that have a significant presence in the Indian market, such as Mercedes-Benz, Renault and Ferrari, hope to fully leverage this opportunity by holding customer engagement activities and marketing campaigns designed to exploit the general excitement around F1.

The India F1 is to be held at the specially designed Budhh International Circuit in Greater Noida.

Star drive

Mr Peter T. Honegg, Managing Director and CEO, Mercedes-Benz India, told Business Line that the German luxury carmaker would look to lose the image of an “old man's car”, which is currently attached to the company, with an impression of “sportiness” through F1.

“An idea around F1, which we have tried in China and Malaysia, is performance and safety training. We will offer this to our customers. We offer ‘Star Drive' right now where professional drivers show what our cars can do. We want to go one step further – we can have an event in the race course in Delhi or at Chennai with trainers. We will provide the cars and might combine it with a race. This may happen on a regular basis, maybe 2-4 times a year,” he said.

Mercedes has been operating in India since 1995, while Renault and Ferrari have introduced their own models only in the last few months. Fiat, the parent company of Ferrari, could also look to boost its own brand through its supercar division's success in F1.

Pit lane visits

“We think it's a good way to start in a market, we did not plan it this way, but it will definitely help us build our brand. We are planning some initiatives around F1, but it depends on our local partner – Shreyans. We could have pit lane visits for customers, or may be track days at the circuit,” said Mr Massimo Renon, Head of Sales and After Sales, Ferrari spa.

In the current format of F1, Mercedes runs one factory team and supplies engines to two others – Force India and McLaren. Renault and Ferrari also do the same. In fact, Renault-powered Red Bull Racing won the constructor's championship in 2010, while its driver – Mr Sebastian Vettel, won the driver's championship.

“We have been successful in F1 this year and with an aggressive product strategy planned for India, we will surely use F1 for brand-building activities. We are working on a strategy, so we cannot give you the details immediately,” said Mr Marc Nassif, Managing Director, Renault India.

However, a Hyundai official said that they would not be involved with any marketing activities around F1 and would concentrate mostly on cricket. Hyundai is the second largest carmaker in the country.

The growing popularity of motorsport in India is also related to the increased Indian participation in premier level championships like F1 and MotoGP. Liquor baron Dr Vijay Mallya-owned Force India is in its fourth F1 season this year, while Narain Karthikeyan is a primary driver for Hispania Racing and Karun Chandhok is a test driver for Team Lotus.

Companies such as Tata Consultancy Services and Base Batteries are also increasingly using the platform for advertising.

> roudra.b@thehindu.co.in

Published on May 29, 2011

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