JIM CAMPBELL, CHEVROLET U.S. VICE PRESIDENT OF PERFORMANCE VEHICLES AND MOTORSPORTS, met with members of the media today at Homestead-Miami Speedway and discussed the 2017 NASCAR season, winning on Monday, selling on Sunday and many other topics. Transcript:
THE MODERATOR: We’re excited to have all three manufacturers sit down with you to talk about their season. With me we have Jim Campbell, Chevrolet US vice president of performance vehicles and motorsports. Dave Pericak, global director of Ford Performance. Ed Laukes, group vice president of marketing for Toyota Motor North America.
Before we talk about the action on the track, obviously these fierce competitors have continued to drive fan engagement throughout the year at record levels, specifically putting out great exclusive content from all three brands. This year they had a unique program that they worked with NASCAR on in which fans were entered for a chance to win new trucks, a VIP experience to Champions Week, other experiences and prizes. Really helped them connect their success on the track with fans and consumers.
Congratulations, gentlemen, on a great year on and off the track.
These Playoffs have been highlighted by intense competition. The rivalries are not exclusive to drivers and teams. I’ll ask each of you to talk about your season.
Jim, we’ll start with you.
JIM CAMPBELL: It’s great to be with you. Sorry for my voice, I lost it here the last couple days. I was not screaming. It just went away.
This year has been exciting in many respects. We’ve had our share of disappointments as well. Obviously, it was great to have Sauter in the hunt last night to go for a second consecutive championship. He came in second, as you know. He was a great champion last year. We’re so proud of him, everybody at GMS.
The XFINITY side has been very exciting in terms of our progress there, to see so many young drivers coming through that series. They are making names for themselves. Many will go on to the Cup Series next year. We’re excited today we’re going to see four Chevrolet Camaros, their drivers and teams in the final championship race.
Obviously on the Cup side, some highs and lows. We had 10 wins this year. Last year Jimmie, the defending champion. That was our 31st drivers’ championship. We put eight drivers into the Playoff at the beginning, didn’t transfer one into the final, which is very disappointing.
With that said, I’m really optimistic about what is going to happen next year. We have our new Camaro ZL1 racecar. Dale Earnhardt Jr., Mike Royce, who leads our product development at our company, they basically helped debut that racecar. Jimmie Johnson, our defending champion, drove the new Camaro ZL1 to debut it this past August. We’re exciting about racing the Camaro ZL1 next year.
I’m excited about the combination of drivers next year, a combination of veterans, Jimmie Johnson, McMurray, Newman, Allmendinger and Kane, these guys know how to win, combined with younger drivers that are hungry, want to make a statement. Chase Elliott coming back, Kyle Larson with absolute momentum, William Byron, Alex Bowman, Austin Dillon, Ty Dillon, Chris Buescher. An amazing inflection point to have these young drivers come in combined with the veterans.
Disappointed we’re not in the championship today. I know the Team Chevy drivers are going to focus on winning the race.
Also, it’s going to be an amazing day as Dale Jr. completes his amazing career here in NASCAR. We’re so proud to be a partner with him.
THE MODERATOR: Ed, your view on ’17.
ED LAUKES: Good afternoon, everyone. We’ll get this out of the way right away. I think you’ve heard me say before that we are competitors in the showroom, competitors on the racetrack, but we’re all car guys. We all get along really well and work together for the betterment of the sport.
With that, I’m going to congratulate Jim on his championship in the XFINITY Series, and then at that point I’m glad he made his remarks so Dave and I can take it from this point forward (laughter). Anything else you want to add before you move on?
JIM CAMPBELL: I want to thank you for William Byron. Thank you.
ED LAUKES: You are welcome for William Byron (laughter).
JIM CAMPBELL: Congratulations on the truck championship, too.
ED LAUKES: Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: Jim, earlier this year you unveiled the Camaro ZL1. Chevrolet put 19 drivers into the Playoffs. Talk about what 2018 looks like for you.
JIM CAMPBELL: My comments earlier really said it all. I think as we conclude the race here, this will be the final race for the Chevrolet SS. We debuted that in 2013. 73 wins. Three of those years a Chevy driver in the SS won the championship. We won three manufacturers championships during that timeframe.
The SS has actually been a big success for us. Obviously, we wanted to be stronger and get into the Playoffs here in the final year. But your opportunity to change the car also (indiscernible) what goes on in the showroom. The SS, completing the production on the SS, which really spawned the selection of a new vehicle.
We really wanted to focus on ‑‑ the reason why we brought the SS in is the same reason we selected the Camaro ZL1. That is fuel injected, V8, rear wheel drive, manual transmission in the showroom. The same on the racetrack for the SS. That same thing goes for the Camaro ZL1, same on the racetrack. We think that’s the authentic way to do it, showroom to the racetrack. We’re really pleased with that. Cannot wait to get this on the track.
We’ve been spending a lot of time obviously in the wind tunnel. We went through all the testing we had to do for NASCAR, got all that approved. That debuted in August at our world headquarters, it was pretty special.
I really like this combination of drivers. We’re going to lose some veteran drivers, it’s part of the cycle. But we have a lot of these young drivers coming up. It’s exciting. They’re hungry. The veterans, they want to put an exclamation point on their careers. It’s a great combination.
THE MODERATOR: With that we’ll open it up to questions.
Q. Can you talk a little bit about what Dale Earnhardt Jr. has meant? He and his family have a long legacy with Chevrolet. What has that legacy meant?
JIM CAMPBELL: As you all know, it’s been very special. The Earnhardt family and Chevrolet have a long history together. We all watched Dale Jr. grow up around the track. He worked in his father’s dealership, the lube rack, changed oil as a mechanic and technician. Then he ran the modified series. He worked his way up with his brother and his sister, Kerry and Kelley, then graduates into XFINITY, wins 24 races, then two championships. That was back‑to‑back. It was incredible. Moves up to the Cup Series obviously at DEI, then later with Hendrick. Delivered 26 wins.
Think about his record at the superspeedways. 10 wins at superspeedways, nine runner‑ups, and obviously within that win number are two Daytona 500 championships.
What he’s done for Chevrolet, off the track he’s helped us introduce new vehicles, cars and trucks. He has introduced new crate engines, gone to a lot of our factories. Fifth general Camaro, we had him out at our proving grounds before we introduced the car to drive it, give our engineers feedback on the handling and the dynamics. He’s just been a great partner all the way through.
Then to see what he has done through his foundation to give back to others and great causes is incredible. The number of charities and causes that they have provided benefit and support to, it is almost too long to list. It’s incredible. But a couple that come to mind, Make a Wish, he’s done over 250 wishes, and he’s one of the most popular Make a Wish partners, if you will. Then a strong partnership with Nationwide and their Columbus Children’s Hospital. Those are just two examples.
Amazing guy on the track, off the track, and we look forward to a long partnership with him and Kelley Earnhardt and their team for years to come.
Q. Jim and Ed, you have the new Camry, the new Camaro. Do you see translation of interest from the showroom because of that? Increase in sales or interest at all?
JIM CAMPBELL: Yeah, I mean, I would just say in general, racing is great platform for us obviously because we learn on the track. That’s a key reason, take those learnings and drive it back to the showroom products, whether the vehicle or the power train or the integration. It’s a great place to develop engineers, we love all that.
When you have a chance to win races and vie for championships, it does lift what people think of Chevrolet. We do see more people put Chevrolet on their shopping list that are fans in the motorsports category. NASCAR is one of them. Chevrolet is involved in five major series. Some of our sister divisions are in racing as well in the company.
We do see a translation to sales. In the midways, what we love about racing, race fans get to the track early. Sometimes days early, many times hours early. In those midway areas is where we can show them our new Chevrolet cars, trucks, crossovers, parts accessories, crate engine. Chevrolet customers, they discover what’s new about Chevrolet. If they’re not, particularly Ford and Toyota customers are very interested in getting them to come to our camp, Ed, Dave.
JIM CAMPBELL: We do see the translation to sales, for sure, absolutely. Camaro for us, we race it in another road racing series, won a championship. Running in NHRA, what we call stock eliminator, kind of the sportsman classes, Pro Stock, all the way through. We just had a sweep in NHRA in championships. Running in XFINITY and now Cup really puts the focus on Camaro for racing. It’s great.
Q. Used to be that win on Sunday, sell on Monday, all that. With the trend for the automotive buyer now, two areas, SUVs and crossovers. It’s no secret. Selling sedans, coupes, hybrids. How long do you think motorsports can still be relevant in that arena? Looking at decades, a decade, a few years? How can you translate the use of sedans and coupes to an automotive public?
JIM CAMPBELL: I would just say we’re in five series with Chevrolet. Those are moments to create energy and excitement, enthusiasm for Chevrolet overall. As I mentioned, all those places, part of our team is back in the back, on‑site activation, online activation, we’re leveraging these platforms to tell a broader Chevrolet story.
It does touch on all the different new entries, whether it’s new Equinox, Traverse, pickup entry. We have in our midway, you’ll see us with the Volt and Bolt, which has a 238-nominal range with one charge. Amazing technology. The industry is moving very quickly.
We’ll always use it as a platform to tell our entire story, like what I was saying earlier. Cars, crossovers and trucks, parts and accessories is what we focus on in our midways but also online.
Q. Jim, is all the data that you collect in the development of the Camaro, is that available to the Chevy team?
JIM CAMPBELL: Absolutely. We run what’s called a key partners program in all our major teams. I see our program manager sitting here on the Cup side. We work together as one team as common development, particularly the beginning of a new vehicle. You’re in the tunnel together, doing a lot of aero development together, doing performance integration together. In today’s day and age of motorsports, every dollar you spend, it is a precious dollar. We try to do common projects together to move the whole performance of our Chevrolet team lineup ahead, then the teams are going to take a moment where they’re going to do their own point of difference. It’s just going to happen.
More and more, projects come in through our key partners program.
Q. Dave, with the Camaro coming into the Cup Series, are you introducing the Mustang?
DAVE PERICAK: Great question. I mean, Jim has been waiting for this answer.
JIM CAMPBELL: Thank you for asking it (laughter).
DAVE PERICAK: We always look at what’s going on in the showroom, where we’re going with our product development cycle plan. We introduced the new Fusion a couple years ago. We will be looking at introducing a new car in the future. We have not submitted anything as of yet, but stay tuned.
THE MODERATOR: With that, these gentlemen have to roll to the drivers meetings. I want to wish you luck tonight and tomorrow.