One of the things we decided to do at FreiburgersJunkyard.com is to have regular opinion columns in the blog. It looks like I get to go first. I’m Brian Lohnes, and my column is called Barnstormin’. Get used to it.
This week, I’ve noticed that over the last five to ten years, the Nürburgring race course in Germany has become the focal point for automotive manufacturers to showcase the performance of their racy cars. It’s been used for that purpose for far longer than that, but for the American manufacturers it’s been a more recent trend.
For the record, I think it sucks. Here’s the problem. The numbers generated by say, an HHR SS, whose suspension was tuned and developed on “The Ring” are absolutely meaningless to 98 percent of the buying public. In decades past, the numbers that the manufacturers, especially the American ones, used to sell were the ticks of the clock from dragstrip timers. You’d be able to lean on your fender at the local ice cream stand or burger joint and tell your buddies that the car went 13s off the showroom floor. It makes a whole bunch more sense than yammering on about how it runs nines, as in nine-minute laps around the 14.1-mile Nordschleife section of the Nürburgring course.
Recently, Nissan and Porsche have gotten into a public slap fight about the times that the Nissan GT-R turned in. Porsche went and bought a GT-R for the expressed purpose of trying to duplicate the performance of the Nissan. The Germans, with their best guys in the seat couldn’t touch the numbers thrown up by the supposedly “stock” GT-R. The good news is that a Viper ACR just jackhammered both of them into the ground.
By taking the measuring stick of performance away from something very tactile, like the local dragstrip, and placing it in the green hills of Germany we’ve gone into fantasy land. Perhaps it’s a commentary on the video game generation that is now coming of age to buy cars. They’ve been seeing and driving around this track in video games for years. The accuracy of some games, like the Gran Tourismo series may actually provide baseline numbers to judge the performance of real cars for gamers.
What we do know is that the percentage of American performance car buyers who will someday drive their cars around the ‘Ring is far less than one percent. Of those same people, the number who will make a dragstrip hit or two with their car is far more than one and some statistics we’ve seen even point to double-digit percentages.
We’re guessing that the German testing budget for American auto manufacturers has evaporated, as it seems the budget for just about everything else is doing likewise. As these companies circle their wagons and desperately try to find ways to sell their cars to American buyers it may make sense to have them perform at the places American drivers will take them to perform, and that’s not Germany.
With the introduction of the drag package cars from Ford and Dodge, there is certainly hope that we’re headed back to the roots of American performance. This isn’t a drag race versus road racing argument, it’s an argument of relevance. By hitching their wagons to what “the other guys” are doing the American companies have tried and failed to beat them at their own game. They could never beat us at ours…so why did we switch?