JULY 10, 2000
Jordan and engines
ALTHOUGH Eddie Jordan recently announced a factory engine deal with Honda, there is no doubt that in the longer term Jordan is still looking for a major partnership with a car manufacturer - and Honda is unlikely to be that company as the Japanese firm is still intent on having its own F1 operation. Jordan could sell his team to Honda but discussions along these lines failed in 1999 and there are no signs that Jordan has lost his taste for the bright lights of F1 racing. Thus a factory engine deal is a good step for Eddie but not the long-term solution to the problem of how to challenge Ferrari, McLaren and, Williams. Jordan knows that it would be a good idea to conclude a deal soon for the longer term as the major car manufacturers are beginning to run out. The Ford Motor Company is putting its support behind Jaguar Racing, Toyota is building up its own team, DaimlerChrysler is a McLaren shareholder and Renault has bought the Benetton team. Of the Big Six car companies, therefore, only Volkswagen and General Motors are still available.
There are now only three mid-sized car companies left: BMW, Peugeot and Honda and all apparently have their own plans in Formula 1. This means that Jordan's targets for engines have to be Volkswagen and General Motors and as most of the automobile industry is convinced that Volkswagen will eventually buy BMW, General Motors is Jordan's obvious choice.
Conversely, Jordan is the obvious choice for General Motors if it takes the decision to enter F1 as the team is proven and would provide a very good starting point for a manufacturer new to F1. The team needs new facilities and these would take a couple of years to complete but GM would have to establish its own engine-building operation and so a deal two or three years ahead is the most likely course of action.
We believe that GM staff have already visited Jordan Grand Prix and that exploratory talks have been taking place. GM's quiet move towards F1 began in March last year when the company's Cadillac division launched the striking Evoq roadster at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. This was followed by the announcement that Cadillac would be entering the Le Mans 24 Hours in 2000 in order to compete with Mercedes-Benz and BMW. In the autumn GM's head of motorsport activities Herb Fishel turned up in the F1 paddock at the Belgian Grand Prix. In November GM revealed plans for a new motorsport strategy to focus the company's worldwide expertise to help the individual brands increase their sales. Cadillac was singled out for transformation from being a "decidedly American brand for Americans" into "an American-inspired brand with global credibility." The revamping of the Cadillac image continued this year at the Geneva Motor Show with the unveiling of the Imaj prototype.
A month ago the running of GM was taken over by new chief executive Richard Wagoner, one of the youngest men ever to run the world's biggest car company. He arrives at a time when GM is under heavy attack from Ford which has bought Volvo and Land Rover and recently agreed to buy Korea's Daewoo. If that deal goes ahead Ford will become the number one automobile manufacturer in the world with annual production of 9.3m vehicles.
GM has concentrated on forming joint ventures with Fiat, Subaru, Isuzu and Suzuki but Wagoner told management recently that he wants the lumbering GM to reinvent itself as a fast-reacting company to keep up with Ford.
Much depends on F1 rule stability as the current engine regulations run only until the end of 2006. This may seem a long time from now but for an engine manufacturer it is not that long and GM does not want to invest in a 3-liter V10 engine unless there are clear signs that the current engine formula will be unchanged.
At the moment the F1 engine manufacturers are not even talking about the long term but it is possible that they will want to reduce engine sizes to V8 or even V6 in the future. Until there is a decision on that it is unlikely that GM will move, although the company could agree to a deal to badge a V10 produced by an independent engine company if there is need of a shorter term program.
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