Porsche, Audi will join Formula One, Volkswagen CEO says

Volkswagen’s premium brands Audi and Porsche will join Formula One after they convinced the German automaking group that the move will bring in more money than it will cost, VW chief executive Herbert Diess said on Monday.

Discussions by the board of directors about the two brands’ plans had created some divisions, Diess said at an event in Wolfsburg, where the German carmaker is headquartered.

But ultimately the brands, which next to VW’s China business are the group’s most important income suppliers, made the case that they would pull in more money for Wolfsburg with a Formula One commitment than without one, according to Diess.

“If you do motorsport, you should do Formula 1 as that’s where the impact is greatest,” said Diess.

“You just run out of arguments,” he said.

There has been speculation for several months that the two brands were negotiating partnerships to enter the highest class of international motor racing, which for much of the past decade has been dominated by Volkswagen’s German rival Mercedes.

Diess said on Monday that Porsche’s preparations for entering Formula One were a little more concrete than Audi’s.

Audi is ready to offer around €500 million ($556.3m) for British luxury sports car maker McLaren as a means to enter, a source told Reuters in March, while Porsche intends to establish a long-term partnership with racing team Red Bull starting in several years’ time.

Alfa Romeo Sauber and Williams are also potential candidates for a takeover.

In addition to the brands’ economic argument, Formula One’s high advertising impact was apparently also convincing. Diess said that as a result Porsche will reduce other racing activities and concentrate more on the F1 circuit.

The decision comes as Volkswagen prepares for a possible listing of Porsche AG in the fourth quarter of this year, although sources have said the entry into Formula One racing would only be likely to happen in a few years’ time.

Porsche has been linked to Red Bull Powertrains, in either a branding or full technical relationship capacity.

Porsche already competes in Formula E, GT, and Sportscar racing, with work underway to return to the top flight of the latter next year.

Audi too has racing programmes, though primarily in customer categories like GT3 and TCR.

Ferrari, Daimler, Aston Martin Lagonda, Renault, Alpine, and (to an extent) Honda already compete in F1.