The Internet Brands Auto Classifies and Auto Communities groups are joined by industry experts to speculate on the future of the automobile, and the race, performance and enthusiast spaces.
The theme of “Looking Forward” emerged early in the planning of “No Shows No Problem.” In fact, it initially evolved out of a discussion of the electric vehicle, and whether there was a place for enthusiasts in an all-electric world. Of course, the answer is yes, although a complicated yes, with much speculation of what an enthusiast would look like for the electric performance space, along with how to support the love of a big old gas-powered engine. But the speculation also tied into the current industrial climate. Manufacturers and show promoters are shifting figurative (and literal) gears like crazy to make up for industry shutdowns and closed shows in the face of the pandemic. On the other hand, certain sectors are thriving. Builders are busy, hobbyists are in heaven, and we find ourselves at the weirdest moment in most of our memories as enthusiasts of going fast, cool or both on four (and two) wheels.
We wanted to escape our echo chamber, and find out what the rest of the industry thought, so we posed a question to a variety of folks who represent a cross-section of the broader space.
Over the course of the next three days, we will expand on this idea in a number of ways — looking at auto journalism, at the vehicle itself, as well as the enthusiast space through articles, panels, and discussions within our forums and on our social media, but here are a few words directly from those who represent the heart of the industry.
Q: We are at a crossroads in the auto industry, particularly in terms of enthusiast, race and performance developments. Where do you see the industry going and where would you like to see it go?
“I think the horsepower war pretty much needs to be over. We’re at the point where we don’t have many affordable, engaging sports cars left, but at least a dozen opportunities for 600+ horsepower mid-engined exotics. I’d like to see a focus on dynamics, on the driving experience, rather than technologies that cover up bad driving, and insane levels of horsepower. ” Matt Farah, The Smoking Tire
“Everyone is dealing with obstacles in 2020, some industries are set up to recover better and faster then others. Currently the racing industry has opened back up, which is great for all involved, although it will take some time to be back to where it was pre-pandemic. I think you’ll find that the events going forward will be shorter in length and the programs competing will be more streamlined across the board regardless if that’s a professional race team or enthusiasts doing track days. With everyone taking a harder look at their programs and “trimming the fat” will lead to a healthier program and market for all involved, I for one think the future looks bright!” Eric Burch, President, P1 Groupe, Inc.
“Enthusiasts, race teams, and the general public at large are looking for increased benefits, such as longer drain intervals, extended life products, technology to combat engineering challenges like LSPI (low speed pre-ignition), and increased performance. We are seeing trends from the market demanding more innovation, more problem solving through technology, and additional value creation. These objectives are being met by creating cutting edge products, that solve performance issues, and help to drive revenue and value throughout the entire supply chain. Racing will lead the way in some aspects of this by continuing to be on the forefront of innovation, testing, and performance expectations. I would like to see the industry continue to focus on better technology, stronger partnerships between manufacturers and users, and working to elevate the overall product performance levels to ensure we are all creating better products that meet the needs of the marketplace.” Justin Johnson, Director, Red Line Synthetic Oil
“First, I couldn’t agree more. Things are changing and changing fast. If you can take one good thing out of 2020, I think the shutdown situation has pushed many companies into the 21st century that were previously resistant to change. Print advertising is dying, and companies have to transition to digital marketing very quickly. The industry is heading into a robust e-commerce/digital area, which I think is HUGE because we must get to the younger generation. If this age group lives on their digital devices, we have to gain their attention, to help develop them into an enthusiast. We can’t sit around and act like things aren’t different than they were even five years ago. We need to embrace the change and attack it. The more time we focus on online advertising, YouTube install videos, and these industry influencers, the more enthusiasts we will gain. I love these virtual shows and even new podcasts that are popping up because we target young enthusiasts that we weren’t reaching before. The more we do this, the bigger the industry will grow.” Johnson Barrick, Vice President, Sales & Marketing, Aeromotive Fuel Systems
“2020 has been a strange year. While these virtual events won’t be permanent, there is another kind of change coming to the industry. With hybrids and electric cars making so much progress over the last few years, it’s only a matter of time before they take over the consumer market. That leaves the enthusiast market to carry the ICE torch moving forward. We believe this will only bolster the aftermarket. The need for parts and the desire to modify will grow only stronger when OEM options dry up. The industry is going electric, and that just might be the best thing for enthusiasts and our internal combustion engines.” Mike Ring, Ringbrothers
“There is much more nuance and detail to the conversation, but in broad terms: the performance and racing industry needs to continue to engage existing fans while increasing appeal to a new generation of enthusiasts. In order for American car culture to grow, the automotive aftermarket industry needs to remain relevant to younger generations. I think this ties in directly to the need for the auto industry to allow and encourage their customers to customize and modify their cars to make them “their own” in order to build excitement and engagement with OEM manufacturers and the aftermarket industry. The challenge is that through technological advancements and the push by car manufactures to limit the public’s ability to work on their own vehicles, customization of street cars has become significantly more difficult.” Joe Morrison, Joe Morrison Racing, Right2Breathe.org
“With over 50 years of equity in the auto world and being the #1 toy car in the world, Hot Wheels has long paved the way in influencing car culture, legendary design and epic performance. And while our roots run deep, we’re always looking to evolve and innovate. Hot Wheels has always challenged the conventional approach by creating both toy cars and real-life cars that look and perform radically different, and better, than anything on the road. The outrageous designs and epic stunts we are known for aren’t going away, but as technology continues to drive the automotive industry into new territories, we’ll continue to innovate. Looking forward, we will infuse more and more new technologies into our car and track sets, designing products that meet the ever-evolving and increasingly complex auto landscape. We’ll also continue to meet our fans where they are with new innovative products, digital gaming offerings, partnerships with the movers and shakers in both pop culture and car culture, and exciting live experiences for fans, collectors, builders and families alike.” Ricardo Briceno, Vice President Franchise Marketing at Mattel, Inc.
A virtual roundtable held as part of “No Shows No Problem” brought together Internet Brands Auto Communities editors along with industry representatives to talk about the future of race and enthusiast spaces.
Moderated by Michael Palmer, Internet Brands Automotive Communities, this panel brought together Todd Hoevener, Director, Tech Strategy & Advanced Product Creation, Ford Motor Company; Jim Smith, Director of Marketing & GM Performance Parts Sales, Guaranty Chevrolet; and Internet Brands Auto Communities Editors Andreanna Ditton, Thomas Mabson, and Pouria Savadkouei to talk about this question in a roundtable format. While the focus is largely on technological future, the importance of respecting and maintaining the race and enthusiast space is never ignored.
Certainly, self-driving, automated vehicles will be an undeniable part of the future, as is the high-performance electronic engine, but the consensus is that the e-engine helps give rise to the auto nerd (and we welcome our nerdy overlords), while helping old-school builders, racers and V-8 fans sustain their own niche.
Speculation over design and performance futures (we want retro, and we want it now!) also take into consideration how we retain the things we love about the automobile while taking responsibility for the future or our planet and our industry.
Have thoughts about the future of the race, performance and enthusiast space? We want to hear from you!