Face to face with customers…and a special car: February 22, 2012

The rubber has hit the road – from a promotional and customer engagement perspective. On February 10 we unveiled the new DW12 IndyCar at the Canadian Motorsports Expo and, at the time of posting this article, the vehicle is proudly displayed as part of the Honda Canada pavilion at the Canadian International Auto Show. Participating in both events has not only been a wonderful opportunity to debut the new chassis in Canada, but also to interact with customers, race fans and car enthusiasts.

This direct dialogue is a valuable opportunity to garner insights, ideas and concerns from our consumer’s perspective.

For the unveiling of the new DW12 chassis at the Canadian Motorsports Expo, we relied on the expertise of Trevor Knowles, Director of Engine Development at IndyCar, to provide a presentation of the features and benefits of the new chassis. This proved enormously informative and much appreciated by both the media and fans. When speaking to a knowledgeable motorsports audience it was important to have an “expert” on hand to present and answer questions from a technical perspective. Lord knows, I would not have been able to do so!

Throughout the weekend, Honda Indy Toronto staff members were on hand to answer questions and listen to real motorsports fans who talk passionately about “The Indy”. With a twenty-five year history, it’s not surprising that many people have such positive memories of their experience watching the races on the streets of Toronto. What perhaps was surprising to our staff was the number of people going out of their way to share these stories with them. I actually think our staff learns more about our event from our fans than from listening to us discuss it in the boardroom.

The opportunity to view the new DW12 up close and personal was a huge hit for race fans and car aficionados alike. Knowing this was likely the only opportunity to enjoy unrestricted access to the new chassis, we found some fans lying on their stomachs to see the undercarriage, sticking their heads deep into the cockpit and even trying to bounce the nose cone to check out the suspension (we stopped that quickly!).

Attendees at the Canadian International Auto Show on the other hand have been very different. While our staff thoroughly reviewed and studied Trevor’s technical presentation of the DW12, the questions and feedback thus far from this more broad-based show have been more indicative of the overall draw of the event - rather than just the racing component. While the DW12 display is most certainly sexy, eye catching and attention grabbing, there has been little request for much of its technical specs. Instead, much discussion has taken place regarding the celebrity Grand Marshall (stay tuned for exciting news on this), driver access for autographs (we’ll actually have a full driver autograph session on Saturday), support series (yes the Ferrari Challenge is returning), drivers VIP parties, street parties, BMX demonstrations, etc. In fact, it’s been quite entertaining: we’ve learned that for many customers the “race” is but one component of why the love “The Indy”.

What both shows do have in common is massive interest and appeal to enter our contest to win a truly VIP RACE PACKAGE including not only GOLD TICKETS, PIT and PADDOCK PASSES but also a PACE CAR RIDE and the ability to join us for the DRIVER PRESS CONFERENCE! How cool is that?! We really tried to develop a unique contest that provides customers with a full weekend experience and includes a couple special elements that you simply can’t buy. The response has been fabulous and has given us cause to think about doing something similar as we get closer to July.

Our participation in these two trade shows represent the first of many consumer initiatives designed to interact directly with existing and potential customers. It’s always fun and certainly a great opportunity to learn what’s working and what needs working on from a customer experience perspective. You can expect to see more public activities soon - at Toronto Blue Jays games, the William Ashley store at Bay and Bloor and through other special events.

Please mark your calendars to join us for the official start of the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series with the first race, the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, March 23-25.

If you have not yet seen the DW12, we encourage you to come see us at the Canadian International Auto Show through to February 26th (www.autoshow.ca).

Charlie Johnstone
Vice President & General Manager
Honda Indy Toronto