American Marketer

Events / Causes

Closing sales and building relationships through driving events

February 11, 2014


Luxury automakers stage wintry events to show off the control of their vehicles, but throughout the year driving events and tours present occasions to draw new consumers and solidify loyalties.

Many luxury brands have some sort of "On Ice" event where guests test a automobile's capacity on an icy surface, and scattered throughout the year are a number of seasonal events that display global reach. Whether brands are hosting one-time racing excursions, multiple-session classes or immersive experiences, driving events are crucial for cultivating brand advocates.

"These events do attract buyers as well as strengthen their existing customer base," said Lauren Fix, automotive expert and author of “Lauren Fix’s Guide to Loving Your Car,” Lancaster, NY.

"If one brand offers an on-track or winter driving event it could be enough to close a sale or keep existing customers loyal," she said.

"In addition, many brands are offering new driver schools to create a relationship with new drivers."

Creating the culture

The most fundamental driving event is the driving school, where automakers teach consumers of varying skill levels how to drive.

Such programs simultaneously grant brands an authoritative status, while also humanizing them by bringing consumers face-to-face with employees. Some schools teach teenagers the basics of the road.

Mercedes-Benz is bringing its Teen Driving Academy to San Diego to offer driver education and training through its Department of Motor Vehicles-certified Mercedes-Benz Driving Academy beginning in mid-2014.

Mercedes-Benz Driving Academy vehicle against mural

The program aims to instill decision-making skills into young drivers and help parents refine their educational techniques. By including parents and their children, Mercedes intends to create a familial team that increases the chances of enduring judiciousness behind the wheel (see story).

Other programs turn promising and passionate drivers into certified racers.

Aston Martin driving training program

Aston Martin's multi-week racing driver training program tries to develop candidates for the GT4 circuit. The course allows participants to drive the Vantage GT4 as they complete a comprehensive driving course that brings them onto the track and into the classroom.


Beyond educating, automakers frequently set up multi-day, deep-dive events. Such events situate a brand in the broader luxury ecosystem and create lasting memories.

For instance, Bentley Motors is building upon its 2014 Power on Ice events in Finland with a longer lineup of cars, circuits designed by four-time World Rally Champion Juha Kankkunen and options for designing a bespoke trip.

Bentley's Power on Ice

Power on Ice 2014 allows brand enthusiasts to hone their driving skills with Bentley’s team of instructors over four days while enjoying a stay in Northern Finland. Also, the new Flying Spur sedan will make its debut on Mr. Kankkunen’s circuits, where its ability to withstand harsh conditions will be tested (see story).

Also, French automaker Bugatti is ingratiating itself with prospective North American consumers via a day-long driving program in the Grand Sport Vitesse model.

The “Dynamic Drive Experience” enables participants to drive on challenging road courses, closed roads and airport runways to get a sense of the car’s maximum potential. The brand will enact four events annually in the United States and Canada, with the first event taking place in Las Vegas this month (see story).

However, in all driving events there is some form of guided improvement going on.

"A successful driving school teaches skills to drivers by having exercises in a controlled environment in a fun and friendly way," Ms. Fix said.

"One-on-one instruction and showcasing the car brands' capabilities [is key] so drivers feel more confident in utilizing them on the roadways for safer driving and creating a relationship with the brand," she said.

Final Take
Joe McCarthy, editorial assistant on Luxury Daily, New York