Thursday, Oct. 15, 2009 | 8:47 p.m.
In a step that I hope will eventually lead to the "pony cars" coming to Sprint Cup racing, this week Ford and Roush Fenway Racing unveiled the Mustang that will be used next year in the Nationwide Series.
Dodge will introduce the Challenger to the Nationwide Series and Toyota, which doesn’t have a "pony car" in its lineup, will stick with the Camry.
So where’s the Chevrolet Camaro? Unfortunately, Chevrolet has made the decision to stick with the Impala. Does the struggling manufacturer think it can sell more Impalas than Camaros by sticking with the sedan nameplate? Maybe.
Look, I understand that GM needs to concentrate on strategies that sell the highest number of vehicles, but what about the excitement factor that comes from using a vehicle like the Camaro? I bet that using the new Chevy "pony car" in the Nationwide Series would create more buzz about Chevrolet’s products than the continued use of the Impala. And what about competition? Since Chrysler and Ford are entering their "pony cars," wouldn’t it make sense for Chevy to also reap the promotional benefits that a presence in the Nationwide Series can offer?
The Mustang, Challenger and Camaro are brands that provoke an emotional response from consumers. They are names that command attention based on their reputations and good looks. Ford and Dodge are smart to capitalize on that by garnering more attention for their products by using these brands in NASCAR. My mother owned a 1986 Mustang. Mechanically it was a GT, but it had the LX notchback body. To this day she still gets excited when she sees a new Mustang on the road.
For any type of product that kind of response is priceless. Face it, using the sedan nameplates just doesn’t elicit the same response. When was the last time you heard a fan say they’re running out to buy a Ford Fusion, Chevy Impala or Toyota Camry because they’re used in Cup racing?
Here’s a story from CNBC.com about Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s marketability.