AMG born in the fast lane

  • The image of cars on a parking

Mercedes AMG chairman Ola Källenius made an interesting remark about the nature of the relationship between the auto industry and motorsports during a breakfast roundtable with media recently.

“The founding fathers founded the company to go racing. That is why AMG exists. They made road cars to finance their racing activities, which for many famous sports car brands, was the story,” he said.

Oh, how times have changed. It’s hard to imagine any automaker going about its business in this day and age with its priorities in that order.

For many manufacturers, being involved in racing these days — regardless of the form — is largely a branding exercise, just another means of marketing a product to a captive audience.

While selling cars is ultimately the name of the game for AMG’s involvement in motorsports, the in-house performance division of Mercedes-Benz leverages its involvement in racing better than most.

It’s not just about marketing for a company founded in 1967 by two racing-obsessed Mercedes engineers, Hans Aufrecht and Erhard Melcher, who went out on their own in order to continue developing the 300 SE racing engine after Daimler-Benz pulled the plug on all of its motorsports efforts.

Now that’s what a real passion for motorsports looks like and it lives on in the company Källenius leads.

These days, Mercedes AMG maintains an intensely symbiotic relationship between its motorsports efforts in Formula One and various Touring Car programs and its road car development system.

For example, the battery pack that will be utilized in the upcoming SLS AMG Electric Drive sports car was not only engineered by the company’s F1 outfit based in Brixworth, England, but it is going to be manufactured there as well. A big reason for that, according to Källenius, is the knowledge derived from the use of kinetic energy recovery system (KERS) technology in F1.

“It’s not a one-way road. Yes, we take a lot of ideas from motorsports, but motorsports takes ideas that come from the road car side as well,” Källenius said.

In addition to F1, Mercedes AMG is also heavily involved in touring car racing. Its involvement in one of Europe’s top touring car series, the Germany-based DTM is well-known, but it is just one of many.

Racing versions of its SLS AMG — the SLS AMG GT3 — which are supplied to customer teams around the world experienced an impressive run of success in 2012. Those teams won several drivers’ and constructors’ titles, including two of the most prestigious, the FIA GT1 World Championship and the FIA GT3 European Championship.

While it is hard to know exactly how much of an impact successful motorsports campaigns can have on a company’s bottom line, 2012 was definitely a good year for AMG.

According to a year end figures released by Daimler-Benz, AMG sold more than 24,500 units sold worldwide, up 30 per cent over 2011. Significant gains were also made in Canada, where AMG delivered 1,195 vehicles, a 45.6 per cent increase over the same time period.

Racing is definitely in AMG’s DNA, and while nothing is certain to last forever, so long as its teams win on the track and the company wins in the showroom, motorsports will remain a key part of the company’s business strategy.

  • AMG born in the fast lane

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