Public manufacturer versus manufacturer challenge invites are just plain dumb. The latest one is a marketing effort from Mini asking Porsche to race its 911 against a Mini Cooper S at Road Atlanta.
As Porsche’s President and CEO of North America Detlev Von Platen (or “Det” as I like to call him for short) puts it so well to Mini, “We welcome you at Sebring, Le Mans, Daytona or any other sanctioned race where there is more at stake than T-shirts and valet parking spaces.”
The Porsche President and CEO and anyone else with half a brain knows that if Mini really wants to race another manufacturer they have a couple real options:
Why Mini's Challenge Is Weak
Do as “Det” says and enter your car in a sanctioned race. Commit yourself to racing, don’t just do some lame publicity stunt. If you do want to do a marketing version than just do it. Here is how.
Take your car and buy a manufacturer’s car and race the two cars at a track. Even better use the same driver to man both cars and race for times to see which car really performs best since any true racing fan knows the person driving has a huge impact on winning. (By the way, we did this with the Lincoln MKS 6 versus 8 Challenge and yes we did it at a high altitude for a reason.)
Copy General Motors and do something similar to what Bob Lutz did with the “May the Best Car Win” that became the CTS-V Challenge.
Now this effort was a bit more organic than say Mini’s boardroom marketing idea. See Lutz just made an open challenge that of course was rightfully ignored by the manufacturers, but interestingly not ignored by a Wes Siler from the blog Jalopnik. Wes’ pressing of GM led to a competition where the manufacturers opted out and owners and bloggers showed up to race Lutz. Unfortunately they also raced a heavily loaded track of CTS-Vs and one manned by professional driver John Heinricy - to make sure a Cadillac won.
What worked so well for GM is that they got the online community involved and the trash talking was instantaneous. A manufacturer-to-manufacturer challenge just doesn’t have the same appeal. If a company really wants to challenge another brand, get some competitor vehicles and go at it.
A public challenge is a cheap way at an attempt to generate buzz. It didn't do much as buzz dropped to nothing after the June 9th when mini announced their challenge.
Mini USA posted the Porsche response letter three times on its fan page. I’m guessing multiple people are administrating the page and failing to check what's posted. That aside, the response from the fans was an overwhelmingly positive rah-rah for Mini mainly saying that Porsche is chicken. So it did rally some already pumped owners or fans of the brand. A few people actually wondered why Mini isn’t responding by entering Mini into the racing circuit. We all know why that isn’t happening…
UPDATE June 16, 2010: And it keeps getting weird...