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Q&A: Dave Pericak On Cultivating Young Performance Enthusiasts


The director of Ford Performance recently sat down with PRI’s Dave Argabright to discuss how today’s younger generations interface with the automobile, as well as what can be done to help draw these consumers to the race track on Sundays.

By Dave Argabright

PRI: We keep hearing that younger people in America aren’t as invested in the car culture as previous generations. What’s your read?

Pericak: This is a great question and a great topic. The younger generation…number one, I believe that as people, we love automobiles. I don’t think that’s changed for many years and I don’t think it’s going to change. The way we interface with the automobile has changed and will continue to change, however. That’s where we need to make sure we’re staying relevant and understanding where we are going as a society. I think that, inherent to us as humans, we just absolutely love the automobile.

I’ll give you an example that this is still the case. Not long ago I was in a Mustang, coming up behind a school bus on an off-ramp. It was a Boss 302, and within two seconds of when I came up behind the bus, the entire back of the bus was filled with little faces. And nothing but a bunch of thumbs up in the air. I got a big smile on my face, because this was completely spontaneous and organic. Their faces were filled with excitement because they loved the car.

The other day I was in a Ford GT, and there was a woman on the sidewalk with a very small boy, maybe two or three years old. As I rolled past very slowly, this little boy literally stopped in his tracks and watched the car roll past. The mother actually looked at the baby and got a big smile on her face, and we made eye contact and were smiling at each other. Here is a little boy who doesn’t even know what he’s looking at, yet it captured his attention in a powerful way. So I believe that it is inherent to us as people that we love cars. The people who believe the current generation of young people doesn’t love cars, I don’t think that’s true. I think they have a love for the automobile, but they also have a lot of other things they are interested in in their life. So we have to figure out how to integrate with some of those other things. But I don’t think the love of the automobile is lost.

PRI: That little boy was you or me, a long time ago.

Pericak: Yes, exactly! But think about that…how does a small child who knows nothing become captivated by a performance car? And literally just stop in his tracks. That goes to tell you that there is something innate in us that draws us to love a beautiful machine like that.

PRI: There is significant discussion today about NASCAR’s challenge in filling seats on Sundays. What’s your take, Dave? What could be done to help sell tickets in 2018?

Pericak: We are working with NASCAR on this topic. It’s going to be very hard to continue to have three- or four-hour races. NASCAR has taken the first step with the stage racing to break up the race into segments that people can understand and relate to. This is versus a four-hour race where people are saying, “I’m not sure when this will end.” The younger generation does not have the same attention span that we had. They have a lot going on in their life, right? They’re connecting socially all the time. So to sit for four hours is not, I think, consistent with what they want and what interests them. So you need to break the race down into shorter races, first and foremost. You’re just not going to lock someone in for four hours today, it’s not going to happen.

And as we look at how we integrate with social media and various platforms, we need to make sure we’re making it extremely fun and engaging for the younger generation to connect with our sport. If you think about it, no generation like the current one has grabbed a video clip and shared it with their friends. They want to do that kind of stuff, they want to share cool content with their friends, and talk about it. NASCAR provides massively cool content, and the issue is that we have to be sure that we provide the content in a way they understand, they can use it, and it fits into their life. If we don’t do that, there are a million other things they can go do.

If you look at the nature of our sport, it provides an opportunity for people to share on social media some massively cool things. We just have to make sure we’re packaging it correctly.

Q&A: Dave Pericak On Cultivating Young Performance Enthusiasts

To garner motorsports interest with the younger generation, Ford’s Dave Pericak said, “We need to make sure we’re making it extremely fun and engaging for the younger generation to connect with our sport.” He added, “If you look at the nature of our sport, it provides an opportunity for people to share on social media some massively cool things. We just have to make sure we’re packaging it correctly.”


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