DEARBORN -- Jamie Allison brings a unique perspective to his role as director, Ford North America Motorsports, having spent time in engineering, product planning and marketing during his 22-year Ford career.
Jamie has extensive knowledge of how racing benefits the company as a marketing program, as well as Ford’s major North America professional efforts in NASCAR, NHRA and Rally America. He also can speak to Ford Racing’s grassroots efforts with customers, the development of Ford Racing Performance Parts, and outreach to Ford enthusiasts.
Jamie recently participated in a Live Chat on @Ford where he answered questions asked by employees and shared is team's view of how racing is an integral part of the company’s marketing efforts. Read the Live Chat transcript below to get the inside track on Ford Racing.
Live Chat Transcript
Thanks for joining me. There are many questions in the hopper and I have looked through them already; I hope to get through as many of your questions as I can today on this chat.
Question 1 What makes racing still relevant to the bottom line of our business at Ford?
Answer 1 Racing is a marketing program for the company, and we measure ourselves just like every marketing program in terms of how well we are improving image and purchase consideration for Ford. But we're also using racing to help spread the word of Ford's transformation as a company building great trucks and Mustang, to a company that also produces great, fuel-efficient, fun to drive small cars. One of the reasons we got involved with Ken Block for Rally America and WRC is to help showcase to a new audience our great new cars like Fiesta. With Ken running in both WRC and Rally America, we were able to shine a bright light on the global aspect to our products.
Question 2: Are you concerned that in the early days of the season that we are showing well, but not crossing the finish line first?
Answer 2: In racing, like any competition, it's about WINNING!. I can tell you, the Ford racing team and I are not satisfied with 2nd, 3rd, or another position other 1st place! In this early season, we have won in NHRA (Funny Car with John Force/Tim Wilkerson), we have won in Grand Am (Mustang/Jack Roush Jr), and in WRC (Focus) and Rally America (Fiesta/Ken Block). I am encouraged with our competitiveness in NASCAR, but we are determined to WIN. I am headed to Bristol this weekend... GO Ford!
Question 3: Has the addition of Ken Block added some extra momentum for our racing efforts this year?
Answer 3: Yes. We were thrilled that Ken took Fiesta to a victory in its second Rally America event. And his You Tube videos with Ford Fiesta have over 1.4 million views in just a couple months. He's helping us reach out to a new audience that follow action sports and Rally -- typically would not consider Ford.
Question 4: What's new for our NASCAR series this year and what should we be looking for?
Answer 4: There is a couple of things... first is our renewed competitiveness with Matt Kenseth and Biffle running 2nd and 3rd in the Championship!!! Also the addition of Richard Petty Motorsports to our program with four very competitive Fusions featuring Kasey Kahne. We're are thrilled to have someone as special as Richard Petty - the King - involved with us for the first time in 40 years (he helped us launch the 5.0 Mustang at Daytona). We are also in a phased rollout of the new FR9 NASCAR engine, which is currently on the #21 Motorcraft car and hope to have on all of our major Ford teams running the engine full-time by early summer.
Question 5: What's your favorite type of racing?
Answer 5: I have done a little autocrossing and I have been at our Ford Racing Driving school in Utah... but recently I was at TeamOneil Rally center and I must tell you, it is very thrilling to be sliding into a turn on gravel at over 50-60MPH... I am getting hooked on rally!! But really, our team here supports all Ford Racers in any form of racing.
Question 6: Would you please comment on the Formula Ford / Formula Fit decision?
Answer 6: There are a few questions around Formula Ford... Here is the background, we reached out to SCCA late last year to preserve Formula Ford with a very good faith offer supporting both cars with the Kent Block and homologating the new I4 (working with FoE) into the series. But it was decided to allow Honda into the series. So, our plans at Ford is to continue reaching to our current racers by re-tooling the Kent block (as a performance part) and continue to work with FoE on a ONE Ford plan with the new 1.6L Duratec I4 engine package.
Question 7: Can you please explain how the company measures our return on investment by being involved in motorsports.
Answer 7: We have used motorsports to help launch our new products from Mustang to Fiesta, to Raptor, to Fusion. We see racing in a couple categories. We entered Mustang and Raptor in competition to showcase the performance attributes of our vehicles. As for NASCAR and NHRA (FC), we use motorsports (teams/drivers) to reach out to the large fan base who watch and enjoy that form of racing. We measure ourselves much like every marketing program. We track the impact the racing program has on customers' perception of the Ford brand -- BEAT research shows that racing fans help lift Ford brand metrics highlighted by favorable opinion of 56% and consideration of 54% (4-8ppt higher than general market). We also measure every racing marketing program to ensure that it is returning a positive ROI for the company. We collect data at all our events, and track those consumers to see what sales are attributed to them. So truly, we do see effective return on our racing investment in both brand impact and events activation.
Question 8: I ordered a 2011 Fiesta -- will Ford Racing Performance Parts offer a "Fast Fiesta" catalog like the one the was done for the Focus?
Answer 8: The short answer is YES! Fiesta and Focus are a part of the future of the company of course our performance modification offerings. With the global platform, we are reaching to MSport and FoE to get a jump on a full line-up of modification starting with Performance Packs and progressing all the way to potentially an R2 Rally Kit (and everything in between). Look for the first set of performance parts 90 days after launch.
Question 9: I understand Ford will no longer be supporting the SCCA racing classes, Ford has sponsored for decades. Is this some new strategy to alienate the grass-roots Ford fans?
Answer 9: There are a lot of questions on grassroots support/contingencies... We support all forms of grassroots racing with contingencies in Circle Track, USAC, Drag Racing (NMRA/NHRA sportsman), and road racing in GA. As for SCCA, we had a little support...With the arrival of very competitive new 2011 Mustangs in V6 and V8 (and future Fiesta/Focus), we do see an expanding opportunity to support Ford racers with specific class contingency in SCCA.
Question 10: Jamie - I am elated to see the new BOSS 302R (and older FR500C) battling it out on racetracks across the country in the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge series. The racing is arguably some of the best witnessed since the glory days of Trans-Am in the 60s and early 70s. I would like to know if there are any plans to bring Mustang into the upper echelon of sports car racing in North America - either in the Grand Am Rolex Series' GT class or, preferably, in the American Le Mans Series' GT2 class??
Answer 10: We are getting interests by our current teams who want to move up to GT with Mustang as well as interests in ALMS. Currently there is a GT3 Mustang running in FIA GT3 (comparable to GT class in GA). Ultimately, this has to be a private/independent team-driven effort; we welcome these opportunities and will support technically as we do in other series.
Question 11: There are plenty of colorful characters who race for the Blue Oval... who is your personal favorite?
Answer 11: It's like picking my favorite Mustang... they are all great and they help Ford in so many ways. The most colorful, by far and away, is John Force, the Elvis of NHRA!!!! He is one of a kind who really has a passion for the sport, a passion for winning, and a passion to his fans... we are really thrilled that he is on the FORD team! My favorite racing personality is Parnelli Jones... I have a passion for the BOSS 302 and he is the man... as a racer, he has done it all... from Indy cars, stock cars, offroad, and of course road racing winning that memorable 1970 Trans Am season in his #15 Boss 302... I recently met up with him and he is a class act who still has that fire inside to get back in a Mustang and recreate 1970 all over again!
Question 12: Is Ford pushing any of the racing series to promote "green" technologies that could transfer easier to production cars? What recent technologies have been successfully transferred from motorsports?
Answer 12: The world is changing in front of our eyes touching all elements of the car business. Ford has been an innovator since its inception and we have been leaders and pioneers in this changing landscape. Today's challenge is electrification-- with a full line-up of Hybrids and a BEV Focus on the horizon, I see our role in motorsports on 2 fronts. 1) use motorsports to progress the pace of green/EV technology innovation and casacde that to mainstream application and 2) be apart of the new innovations in motorsports forms (green/EV racing) as they evolve around the world.
Question 13: Will the new 5.0L engine be sold as a Ford Racing part to install in 05 to 09 Mustangs?
Answer 13: ABSOLUTELY! 5.0 is the holy grail for all Mustang enthusiasts. So, yes, we plan to offer the new 412HP 5.0L through our catalog and we have plans to develop an install kit across various platforms (Mustang installs, racing, hotrods/streetrods, etc)
Thank you for submitting questions... you covered the full spectrum of our racing efforts. I hope I was able to answer most of the topics. For interested employees, there are many ways to get the latest information on our program: The Motorsports News and Info Page on www.at.Ford.com; www.fordracing.com, The official Ford Racing Facebook and Twitter pages, and you can also sign up for Fast News from Ford Racing ... a weekly e-blast. Sign up from the fordracing.com home page. Thanks again and GO FORD!!!