Chevy Racing–NASCAR–Homestead–Jim Campbell

NOVEMBER 17, 2018

JIM CAMPBELL, CHEVROLET U.S. VICE PRESIDENT OF PERFORMANCE VEHICLES AND MOTORSPORTS, met with members of the media as part of an OEM panel at Homestead-Miami Speedway to discuss the 2018 and a myriad of other topics. Transcript:

THE MODERATOR: We will open up our media availabilities for today’s, Saturday’s, Day 2 of Ford Championship Weekend. We have a very special one we do annually with our three manufacturer partners. Here with us today is Jim Campbell, the Chevrolet U.S. Vice President of Performance Vehicles and Motorsports; Mark Rushbrook, the Global Director of Ford Performance; and Ed Laukes, the Group Vice President, Marketing, for Toyota Motor North America.

Gentlemen, before we talk about the action on the track, for the third consecutive year, these three competitors collaborated to drive engagement throughout the playoffs by giving fans a chance to win three new custom designed trucks. Congratulations on another great year.

Same question for all three of you: Can you each discuss the 2018 season, what you were most proud of and the excitement around championship weekend? And Jim, maybe we’ll start with you, locking up two manufacturer’s championships in both the Camping World Truck Series and the Xfinity Series, already clinched that last week even though we have one race to go.

JIM CAMPBELL: Yeah, that definitely was a highlight. We had obviously ‑‑ the manufacturer’s championships, obviously two drivers in the Truck Series were going for the championship. Didn’t win it last night, but proud they got to the Championship 4. Two today with Hemric and Reddick. Obviously don’t have anybody in the Championship 4 for the Cup, so that’s disappointing, but I would say that as I take a look at a year in which we introduced a new car, the Camaro ZL1, and we have begun this transition that we all go through at different points where many veteran drivers have started to retire and we’re bringing in a young crew of drivers, and we had our young group that got a year of experience. You see Chase Elliott really accelerated his season through the back half with three wins in the last 14 races, and then Larson was very consistent all year long, didn’t make the Final Four or all the way through the Chase. But proud of those guys.

And overall, the trajectory of the season, not exactly what we wanted, but definitely heading in a better direction than in the front half of the season. When you bring a new car in and you have change over in drivers, those are big moments for manufacturers. More work to do, but looking forward to the rest of the weekend, the race today, and I know there’s a few Chevy drivers that would love to perform great tomorrow in the race, but clearly tomorrow is about the Championship 4.

Q. Kind of following on from that, obviously you alluded at the start to this hasn’t necessarily been the season that you wanted, but is it a motivating factor for you guys to come back that much stronger next year? And then how do you gauge kind of the growth that you guys have seen from the start of the year to now with the Camaro?

JIM CAMPBELL: Yeah, I mean, we’re in ‑‑ Chevrolet is in five different series. We’ve got Holden in a series, Cadillac in a series, previously when we owned Opel, Opel was in a series. So, we gauge our performance in those series on I call it a trajectory, are you on the right trajectory. It’s tough to win every race, right, it’s difficult, but are you on the right trajectory.

So, I would say that when you bring a new car into the sport, at one point that could be a point of advantage, right. But you go through the homologation process and they put you in a box of downforce, drag and side force so that they’re reasonably aero matched. But with 750, mid‑700 horsepower on mile, mile‑and‑a‑half tracks, two‑mile tracks, every pound of downforce translates to speed even though you’re increasing drag. So, when you have a brand-new car, you don’t have that months and months or years and years of fine tuning within the rule set to optimize downforce. So that’s what our teams have been doing, and not only in the tunnel. We also have tools like CFD and simulation, so we basically have been doing that with our teams and in our simulation environment.

And so, over the course of the season within the rule set, we’ve been able to fine tune it and get a better trajectory. Chase is probably our best example. Larson has been pretty consistent through the year. But all the teams we’ve seen an improvement.

What I would say is a moment where you bring a new car in and then combine with a lot of veteran drivers, guys like Gordon, Tony Stewart at one point was with our team, Dale Jr., moving on, we’re replacing with these really young, exciting drivers. And so those are two things that happened at the same time, and it becomes ‑‑ it’s a big lift.

But I’m really excited about what that means for us for next year. Consistency in a body, we’re further down the development curve, and then by the way, there’s a new aero package coming next year, and at the mile, mile‑and‑a‑half, two‑mile tracks we’re bringing the horsepower down into the 550 range, so now every pound of downforce comes with drag, but you only have about mid‑500 horsepower. So, you don’t have as much horsepower to overcome the drag.

So, what that means for us next year is we’ve got to make sure when we add downforce it’s really efficient, it comes with the least amount of drag because you only have about mid‑500 horsepower to pull, to overcome the drag. They usually travel together. Downforce and drag travel together, and side force.

Bottom line is I’m excited about where we’re going and also our young drivers. Some of them are rookies. Some of them are 20 years old. These guys have another year under their belt, so they’re going to be more experienced going into in next year, and I also am very proud of the fact that William Byron and Bubba Wallace finished one‑two in the rookie standings, so there you go, guys. I’m proud of those guys. They did a great job. But that’s what I have to say.

Q. I know this is a really basic question, but I really am looking for the answer. What does winning a championship mean to a manufacturer, and what does not competing in the championship mean for the manufacturers, for selling cars, for the attention you get, for what it means for all of you?

JIM CAMPBELL: Listen, over the past 15 years, Chevy had a chance to win 13 manufacturer’s championships, so we have really had a lot of pride around that, but it’s a team effort. Takes all the teams to really be putting points on the board every week.

Obviously, Xfinity and truck we’ll have that opportunity this year, and then in our other series that we compete in. That is one of our goals every year is basically manufacture and driver championships amongst some other things. Some of the big marquee races is also important.

And what we find is that racing, obviously you get the tech transfer benefits, you can develop engineers, but when you win championships, whether it’s manufacturer, driver, we find that you see a lift in brand opinion, and when you see a lift in brand opinion, it does link to people putting on their shopping list more quickly. That’s what our data shows. And also, the image ratings, too. We look at about 22 image ratings for Chevrolet every month, and we look at amongst the NASCAR fans and other fan bases in motorsports and how that compares to general market, and we see a significant lift on many of the image ratings. So, it’s important. It does link.

And what I love about motorsports ‑ we’re involved in all these series ‑ when you win, it’s a moment of celebration, but you can’t rest a minute. You’ve got to figure out how to keep momentum going. When you don’t win, it is entirely about how you respond with your partners, and so that’s obviously in the Truck Series, we’ve had two guys in the championship and the manufacturers, Xfinity, two drivers in the championship, a manufacturer’s championship, and obviously in the Cup it wasn’t our best year.

But I’m looking at trajectory of the program, so that’s how we respond.

Q. For all you guys, as the automotive industry is changing, we talk about SUVs selling and stuff, one of the things that I’m curious about is the proliferation of hybrids in the market. They’re coming, and that will be a time when most of the vehicles we drive with hybrids. Do you ever envision a time in NASCAR when we’re going to use like, à la Formula 1, where we’re going to have hybrid‑style race engines?

JIM CAMPBELL: Yeah, I would say we have hybrids around our portfolio around the world, not only with Chevrolet but our sister divisions, all the way through center‑range electrics, where we have electric battery for a certain amount of range and then we have an on‑board generator for additional range, range extender, and then we have all the way battery electrics, like the Bolt, which gives you 238 miles of nominal range.

When you think about all that going on in the auto industry here in the U.S., North America and around the world, that is a discussion point around when do we bring these kind of advanced propulsion technologies into the mix, and that’s really ‑‑ the one thing that applaud NASCAR for doing is they used a technique we use in our dealer world where we have these dealer councils, and they’re really valuable, because in our automobile business, you’re able to talk to dealers to get feedback on product, marketing programs, go‑to‑market initiatives, and we make better decisions as a result, and about, I don’t know, what was it, four years ago or so, NASCAR put in an OEM council for the first time, a formal council. They would always talk to us informally, but now we have a formal way to communicate. So those are the places where we have a chance with NASCAR to collaborate on that.

Other than that, we want to beat each other on the track and in the showroom. But that is the moment NASCAR brings us together to talk about what could be, because we have to think forward. You have to advance plan. We’re a long‑lead business, an automobile business; when it comes to racing it’s long‑lead, as well. You’ve got to make decisions well in advance when you’re going to implement. It’s possible when it happens, we’ll have to determine that, and we’ll do that through OEM council.

Q. For each of you and since you brought this up and the OEM council, we’ve talked here about other OEMs wanting to come into the sport, things of that nature. I don’t expect you to tell me who or what, but are you all still open to that, and are there still active discussions with other OEMs wanting to be in NASCAR?

JIM CAMPBELL: Yeah, I would say in the five series we compete in, NASCAR is one of them, there’s four others that we compete in, more OEM participation is better. First of all, it’s who we compete against in the showroom, and so it’s meaningful when you win on the track, either a race or a championship or a marquee race. So yes, we want that.

The other benefit is it takes kind of the fixed costs and you divide them up amongst more manufacturers because as technology advances, the cost of development and the implementation can go up, it just depends on the rule set for a series. So, having more OEMs accomplishes two goals: Compete with them on the track and in the showroom, and also spread the fixed costs of what it costs to operate these kinds of programs. So, we’re open to it. The details of what’s going to happen here, I don’t know, but in every series, we’re open to it.