5 motoring brands who re-invented themselves through motorsport

Posted by: Neil Murphy | Posted on: February 21st, 2019 | 0 Comments

Whether you are a small two man garage or a huge multinational chain, the image that you project is incredibly important. But what if your branding is considered dull, uninspiring or just plain forgotten about. In the automotive world, one sure fire way to inject a bit of excitement in to your marque is to go racing!


There was a time when Subaru was largely unknown in the UK, considered an obscure Japanese brand loved by farmers for their rugged 4×4 estates. Then they went rallying, and the brand was reborn. Thanks to their bold paint scheme and even bolder driving thanks to the sideways heroics of legendary drivers like Colin McRae and Richard Burns, the Subaru Impreza became the dream car for teenage boys everywhere. And whilst they might have retired the Impreza in the UK, just the name Subaru still conjours up images of a bright blue saloon sitting on gold wheels and sporting a large rear wing. Preferably covered in mud.


Volvo is a brand that has long traded on it’s safety. So quite what made them think that competing in the panel banging world of touring car racing would be a good idea is something of a mystery. Even more suprising was that they decided to race an estate car. Although it was a marketing gimmick, it paid off and the 850 estate was surprisingly successful in the British Touring Car Championship. Coupled with the fire spitting 850 T5 sitting in their dealerships, which could hit 60 in 6s and go on to 145mph, impressive performance in the 90s, Volvo suddenly became a brand with a bit of edge. After a couple of years in the BTCC, they retired the programme, but have had recent success in both the Swedish Touring Car Championship and the Australian V8 Supercar Championship with their new Polestar model.


When Seat first started selling cars in the UK, they were cheap stripped down versions of Fiats and the general public did pay particular attention to them. Through a committed motorsports program across rallying, touring cars, GT racing and supporting their on track action with the sporty models in the showroom, they have managed to turn the brand into a youthful exciting one. A successful one too, with multiple championship titles in the rallying and World Touring Cars, where they dominated for several years.


Sensible, affordable, reliable cars – Nissan have built a strong international brand on these values. But on the side, they were working on their Skyline brand. And 1989 R32 edition was a game changer. With the top of the line GTR model packing a then staggering 275bhp through it’s 4WD system, as well as a trick 4 wheel steering set up, it was a car well ahead of it’s time, and turned plenty of heads. With each subsequent iteration, the car has become faster and more complex, with the current model boasting an incredible 530bhp and a 0-60 time of just 2.9 seconds. Boasting incredible success on track and also featuring heavily in the Fast and the Furious film franchises, the Skyline has become an iconic Japanese muscle car and a firm fan favourite. Building on their increased popularity on track, Nissan teamed up with Sony and their hugely popular Gran Turismo game to launch the GT Academy, which takes top gamers and puts them behind the wheel of real race cars. The drivers have gone on to be incredibly successful, winning races around the world, and making Nissan a motorsport brand to be reckoned with. And then there is their crazy Deltawing race car…


Audi is one of the biggest car brands in the world, and their models are highly sought with our roads packed with their various models. This hasn’t always been the case. Despite having their roots in Auto Union, a dominant racing team from the 1930s, Audi’s were previously considered dull cars for quiet, conservative types. Like Subaru, their image was given a dramatic make over when they started to take their cars to play in the muddy world of rallying. Entering the 4 wheel drive turbocharged Quattro in to the WRC in 1980, it made an impact from the off, leading it’s first rally before retiring in an accident. The car continued to dominate, winning multiple titles and setting records as it went. In many peoples eyes, the Audi Quattro is the definitive rally car. Audi’s success has continued in other forms of Motorsport, from touring car racing, GT sports racing and their continued dominance in the world famous Le Mans 24 Hour where they have won the race an unprecedented 13 times in the last 16 years. In terms of public profile, it has lifted Audi to one of the biggest luxury brands on the market today.

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