Why Lexus is Investing in Racing – The Big Picture – MotorTrend

“Win on Sunday, sell on Monday.” It’s a marketing line as old as the automobile. When Henry Ford raced—and famously beat—rival automaker Alexander Winton on the Detroit Driving Club’s 1-mile oval at Grosse Pointe in 1901, it wasn’t to prove who was the better driver, but whose was the better car. Racing made the reputations of Alfa Romeo and Jaguar and Porsche and Bentley; even aristocratic Rolls-Royce used its victory in the grueling 1913 Alpine Trial to enhance its reputation as builder of “the best car in the world.”

And it’s still an article of faith among many automotive marketers: Mercedes-Benz and Ferrari are each reportedly spending $400 million making sure their brands stay at the pointy end of this year’s Formula 1 field. Hyundai is said to pour about $100 million a year into its World Rally Championship team. And with battery electric vehicles about to go mainstream, no fewer than eight automakers, including Audi, Nissan, and India’s Mahindra, will tip at least $200 million into this year’s all-electric Formula E championship.

“Win on Sunday, sell on Monday.” It’s why, as the darkness falls on serried ranks of RVs and a thousand glowing campfires, I’m watching a pair of growling, bewinged Lexus RC F GTD racers hustle through the twisting infield road course section of Daytona International Speedway as the legendary Rolex 24 settles in to the rhythm of the night.

It’s almost 30 years since I first drove a Lexus. The original LS 400 was the sedan that changed the world, a car so refined and beautifully crafted that it shocked an entire generation of engineers in Stuttgart and Munich and Ingolstadt.

But the brand that positioned itself as the young upstart shaking up the luxury vehicle establishment is now inescapably part of that establishment. As it approaches middle age, Toyota’s luxury arm is seen by many as a legitimate Mercedes, BMW, and Audi alternative—and it’s become one without spending the cubic dollars on motorsport its rivals have.

So why go racing now?

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