It’s been the buzz in NASCAR even before the season ended in 2012. NASCAR introduced the Generation 6 cars they will race in the top tier Sprint Cup series last year. The new cars will make their competitive debut in February at Daytona International Speedway.
According to NASCAR the new cars, called Gen 6 for short, look more like their street counterparts than any racecar seen on the track for years. Indeed the racecars do have more curves and lines than the previous racecars, known as the Car of Tomorrow or the COT. The COT was the bane of many in NASCAR, both fans and drivers. Most considered it nothing more than an oversize a shoebox with wheels and an engine. Brand identity came via decals pasted on the cars. The new cars however have more elements that a manufacturer can use to separate its brand from the other. Chevrolet was the last of NASCAR’s manufacturers to unveil the car it will use as the basis for its Gen 6 model. The car dubbed simply the SS was modeled after GM’s Holden built in Australia. It will join the Ford Fusion and the Toyota Camry on the racetrack (Dodge decided to abandon the sport at the end of last season).
“It’s going to be exciting to see the new Chevrolet SS on track, continuing our quest for more product relevance,” said Chevrolet Racing Director Pat Suhy last week during the Sprint Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway. “[NASCAR race cars have] bio fuels, fuel injection, and now we have a car that is closely tied to its production counterpart. “
But what will this mean to those who don’t care about NASCAR? After all at the end of the day automakers ultimate goal is to move cars from showroom floors. According to one NASCAR team owner the NASCAR version of the cars will help automakers immensely.
Rick Hendrick races four teams in NASCAR’s Sprint Cup series; his drivers have won hundreds of races and racked up multiple championship. However, away from the track, Mr. Hendrick is a car dealer. He leads the Hendrick Automotive Group, the nation’s second-largest privately held automotive dealership group and the sixth-largest automotive dealership group.
According to the company website in 2011, Hendrick Automotive retail sales exceeded 120,000 vehicles and $4.9 billion in revenue.
Last week during the media tour, I had a chance to speak with Mr. Hendrick about the Chevy SS. According to Hendrick when he showed the new SS alongside his four racecars at GM’s dealer meeting the buzz was nearly instant and very loud.
“Twitter lit up,” Hendrick said. “It was the number one Tweet that afternoon and around the world when I went out to Barrett-Jackson, and we did the Corvette deal we got flooded at the dealerships. We’ve already probably sold out of Corvettes for 2014 from the exposure we had. But now all of a sudden we’re getting calls “How can I get on the list to get an SS. So that’s good for the dealerships.”
The street version of the SS won’t even make its public debut until February at Daytona International Speedway; a venue that shows perhaps the strong connection GM is trying to make with the NASCAR model and the street version. But does the fact that Chevrolet won’t debut their street version until next month be a buzz kill? After all both the Fusion and Camry for 2013 are already on showroom floors. According to Mr. Hendrick the excitement over the new SS is there and continues to build.
“You have fans calling wanting to know when it’s available, how much is it going to be,” Hendrick told me.” I think the fact that Chevrolet decided to debut the car for the first time at Daytona says a lot because the car won’t be in the showrooms until probably the end of the summer or early fall. They’re in production but you won’t see the car. I have never seen, and I was so excited about it, I’ve never seen as much buzz about a car. Everybody that walked up to me out there said ‘Man I love the new car’ I love the fact that it’s a Chevrolet. Then they’d ask you how’s the drive, how’s it going to run.”
While not even Hendrick knows what the base price of the SS, he said the car should appeal to many especially those who want a sports car but have the reality of everyday life in the way.
“Here’s a car that if you can’t put family in a Corvette or a Camaro,” he said. “If they won’t fit, the same motor that’s in the SS Camaro is going to be in the SS Chevrolet four door. So you’ve got a good looking car that you can see on the track.”
GM execs are of course happy with the new car.
“The new car is an example of how the manufacturers working hand-in-hand with NASCAR resulted in a product that we are very proud of,” Suhy said. “It’s going to be not only product relevant but also very exciting on the track.”
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