Formula 1 tends to pay little attention to the machinations of the automotive industry, particularly after 2009 when manufacturer involvement in the sport took a plunge with the departures of Toyota, Honda and BMW and a scaling back of Renault’s activities. The current state of affairs is a little precarious, particularly in the midfield. At the moment the sport boasts involvement from Mercedes and the Fiat-Chrysler empire (through Ferrari), with Renault supplying engines. Beyond that there are only automotive tiddlers like Lotus, Caterham and Marussia, who are keen to use the sport to grow their empires. The new F1 rules for 2014 are designed to lure in more manufacturers but their desire to be involved is not just based on what the sport can offer them, but also on the state of the markets. At the moment the giant international corporations are pushing into the new markets, while also trying to cope with overproduction and weak demand in their traditional homelands. Motorsport is still sexy to car buyers but F1 is not high on the agenda until the big players have developed sufficient regional infrastructures, after which they may turn to the sport to help them win over new customers. Similarly, in Europe the primary need at the moment is to reduce production, so that the number of cars available is closer to the number of cars needed, at which point the companies can then start to battle over market share, rather than be plagued by having too many factories, too many workers and too many cars.
It is, therefore, interesting to see the latest moves between Peugeot and General Motors, who are expected to announce in the next few days that they have created an alliance in which the US giant will buy seven percent of the French company. The aim for both companies is to cut costs and streamline operations with Peugeot working in league with GM brands Opel and Vauxhall to create new products, while also giving Peugeot the possibility of getting back into the US market. While it is not an alliance to the same extent as the Renault-Nissan or Fiat-Chrysler combines, it is still a significant step, even if GM will not be able to buy more Peugeot shares in the interim.