To headline scanners it was simply a case of yet another motor manufacturer seeking cheap black ink by linking its name to the world's largest continuous sporting audience, and thus not worth devoting more than a paragraph or two to. To those in the Formula 1 loop, however, the admission by Wolfgang Durheimer - of whom more later - that he would shortly be recommending to his Volkswagen bosses that the company enter F1 sooner rather than later ranks among the significant announcements made in the past 12 months.
To those scanners, VW is a brand, a purveyor of quality, with Teutonically-engineered but rather mundane family cars whose roots lie in the pre-WWII Beetle; to students of the motor industry, Volkswagen is a massive industrial automotive group whose sales in 2011 topped 8.15million units - via no less than 10 automotive brands, and up 14 per cent over 2010 despite the global economic crisis - to provisionally take the company to the world number 1 car slot, ahead of (a revitalised) General Motors (and beleaguered) Toyota. (Note: sales exclude Suzuki, in which the group holds 21 per cent.)
"I will shortly be recommending to the [Volkswagen Group] board that we expand our motorsport activities beyond our current series," Durheimer told Wirschafts Woche, Germany's equivalent of The Economist. "Measured against our projected sales in America, Asia and the Middle East we do not have sufficient motorsport representation [there], and in my opinion that should be remedied," he added, before alluding to Formula 1.
"[Formula 1]," he continued, "dominates the motorsport landscape in Europe and Asia," before concluding with what many in F1 well know, namely that F1 is way under the North American radar. "There we need to look at IndyCar and NASCAR."
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South African-born Dieter trained as industrial engineer before holding down a variety of senior motor industry marketing and manufacturing positions. At the age of 40 he decided to follow his passion, and became the first and only South African journalist to cover Formula 1 regularly. Dieter joined AtlasF1 at the beginning of 2004 – a year prior to its merger with Autosport – and his regular column offers an intriguing analysis of F1’s politicking and commercial chicanery. Although now also proudly Belgian, he gives his domicile as "Wherever F1 duplicity lurks".@RacingLines More features by Dieter Rencken