6 Reasons the SCCA is Losing Members

sports car club of americaSomething a lot of people in the racing community know about but don't like to talk about is the fact that the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA), the largest racing organization in the US, has been steadily losing members for many years now.

I'm not just saying this without any numbers.  In the ‘From the Chair' column in SportsCar, the SCCA's monthly magazine, back in February 2012 this was an issue that was addressed.  “The Sports Car Club of America has seen gradual erosion in both membership and event entries and, unless unchecked, the very core of our club will be endangered.” said Jerry Wannarka Chairman of the SCCA's Board of Directors.  “Our membership is around 42,000 –  a number that reflects a drop of roughly 2,000 members a year for some time now.”  he continued in the column.

Is this surprising?  Not not really and a lot of finger pointing in the racing community has been going on.  I am going to tell you 6 reasons the SCCA has been losing members.

1. Terrible Marketing

This is no surprise and most members of the SCCA are aware of this, but their marketing is terrible.  I know from personal experience since I was a member for 1 year.  I tried to work with my local SCCA group to understand why the marketing efforts were not going well.

It seems the people that manage the SCCA's outreach believe that auto writers and journalists will just magically show-up to their events for press coverage.  The reality is if there isn't a really interesting story or I am not going to be able to drive a car, why the hell would I spend all that time driving there and back?  Keep in mind most events they hold are a fair drive away and are held at Summit Point Raceway in West Virginia, would take me roughly 4-5 hours of driving.  Somehow the people that run the Washington region SCCA didn't get this and don't realize that auto writers either need a really interesting story or need to get something out of going which they wouldn't get otherwise.  (Also they are not very good at returning calls and getting back to you.)

Look my time is valuable and even if I'm interested in racing not every event the SCCA is putting on is interesting.  When I wrote about Freedom Behind the Wheel it wasn't just a story that racing enthusiasts would enjoy but something veterans and their families would like to read too.  You can't always appeal to a wide audience but you always try to with your articles and stories.  

There is a reason companies pay marketers and salesman the most money and not the people that built the product.  They keep the company afloat.

2. Racing is Expensive

This isn't really the SCCA's fault as racing is just expensive.  However, they are not helpful in making so that people new to the club can understand what they need to do to get started with building their own racecars and getting setup.  I guess they assume everyone has the knowledge and resources to do so.

The SCCA from what I can tell has not worked on keeping the costs low for a lot of their races.  It is prohibitively expensive to just show up to a casual race and they don't have any intention of changing this.   Unless you are just independently wealthy or won the lottery I doubt quite see how some people manage to fit in so much time for the SCCA.

The other issue is that in this difficult economy a lot of guys that have sold their racecars or project cars and have completely stopped racing.  Usually I hear the same story.  Car guy used to spend most of his money on his cars, bikes, or other vehicles but now he has 2 kids and maybe another on the way.  He wants to save up money for a down payment on a house and has decided to stop spending time and money racing and on his toys, so he sells his racecar.  (Not easy to find buyers nowadays.)  No racecar or equipment, why would you keep an SCCA membership or other racing organization membership?

3. White People

Everytime I got a SportsCar in the mail my first reaction when opening the pages was, “Oh, racing is for white people.”

Unsure of how they can change this perception with minorities but the SCCA probably should think about it.  The demographics of the US are changing and if they don't' get in front of it the membership base will continue to erode.  Hey, even NASCAR has a diversity program.  Of course I don't think it's going that well as I have zero interest in attending a NASCAR race.

4. Too Many Racing Classes and Categories

I honestly couldn't tell you the difference of the racing classes and categories in the SCCA even though I was a member and I am an auto journalist.  This is probably because the racing categories were named by engineers, who are bad at naming things.

The reasons I mentioned this is it confuses newcomers to the SCCA and makes their lives harder explaining different classes.  All I know is that they have Road Racing, Rally Racing, and some Open Wheel series.  If you want to race a Miata you probably can do that too.

5. Racing Takes a Lot of Time

Me driving all the way to Summit Point just to write about a race, unpaid, is not appealing.  This isn't the only web outlet I contribute too and write for.  Also currently I am working on several other web ventures outside of the automotive space and I need to focus on things that actually pay the bills and make me a living.

For the average person to drive 5+ hours to attend a race or take part in one basically means you would need to take a whole or half day off from work.  I personally can't do this most of the time since it's just not feasible.  From what I've read it seems others feel the same way about the SCCA events too.

6. Young People are not interested in Cars

Yes, it's true.  All young people are not interested in cars and are much more interested in the latest and greatest smartphones.  😉

In addition all young people are currently working on creating the next Facebook, Twitter, Vine, Instagram, SnapChat, etc.  At least thinking that by spending too much time on these social networks.

SCCA is Losing Members

I read in another SportCar issue that while the SCCA gains a fair number of new members each year, a majority drop their memberships and do not renew.  In addition they are losing more members than they gain each year equaling a decrease in members.

It's clear they they need to make some changes and to it aggressively within the next 2-3 years.  If they don't the SCCA might cease to exist.

 

Performance Driving Schools

performance driving schools

Driving can be far more than something you do because you need to. Aside from having to drive for basic transportation learning to really drive a car can be an exhilarating experience. Even the most placid drivers have a hard time not smiling on a wide open road with some sweeping curves on a clear day. Inevitably in those situations or equally on busy days on highways at 70mph your mind goes to the movies – for example, Fast and Furious movies, Ronin, The Italian Job, C’était un Rendez-Vous and similar car genre films. It’s easy to start fantasizing about driving around like a racecar driver but how would you go about learning how to safely execute such maneuvers?

Learning Performance Driving

In terms of getting started, the way you should not learn it is by trying it yourself on impulse with a car full of friends. (Youtube can show you plenty of bad drivers doing this btw.) This would be like not knowing how to swim and jumping from a boat while 2 miles from shore- far more likely to end badly than not.

Many different people are taught performance driving for a variety of reasons. The most common being police officers, whose driving skills are severely underrated by most until they see an actual police chase on TV, Youtube, or on the streets. Ambulance drivers also learn to truly control cars so they can get to an injured person quickly and safely. Something you need to keep in mind is that performance driving is not all about speed, but gaining the ability to avoid accidents.

Schools and Available Performance Driving Programs

There are a lot of different driving schools where you can go to learn and practice car control and learn some fun driving skills in the process. Some insurance companies may even offer discounts as advanced driver training reduces the likelihood your will be in an accident.

  1. Emergency Driving Programs are generally run by AAA or other driver organizations. Typically learning skid control is involved in these couses (the fun part is you need to do skidding/drifting to learn how to control it, it’s not something you can learn in the classroom) in closed open lots and pylons instead of having trees and cars to avoid. Many of these courses are affordable since they cater to the general public and the knowledge of car control and how to gauge a vehicle’s momentum, level of grip, getting used to the G-forces that are exerted are all things that are usually taught and gone over.
  2. Police Driving Programs usually involve becoming acquainted with pursuit methods, stopping a pursued vehicle, advanced braking and acceleration control, and accident avoidance. Look for a class that is modeled after the NAPD program for actual police officers in order to gain maximum benefit. These type of course is probably most ideal if you want to be stunt driver! 🙂
  3. High Performance Driving Schools are normally geared toward racing enthusiasts and will typically take place at racetracks. Instructors are usually retired racecar drivers and get to use high performance and sports cars. These range from 1 day affairs to week long camps. There are several nationally known Race Schools around the country that should fit the needs or budget of anyone looking to learn to “race.” Just do some Googling to find the closest one in your area.
  4. NASCAR Driving – Much like the race schools but specific to NASCAR style racing. These programs and schools usually include actual NASCAR drivers as instructors or for at least a visit. There is one in Orlando that’s impressive, currently sponsored by NASCAR legend Richard Petty. Admittedly these are rather expensive schools to take part in.

While looking at performance driving schools consider a defensive driver course as well for a break on insurance and reality check of your driving skills. In addition to Performance driver education programs and schools there are a lot of very good programs for teen drivers, inexperienced drivers and driving theory such as those at sites like Book Your Theory Online. Remember to keep your performance driving skills (well if you have any, which you probably don't) on a track, under safe and supervised conditions and not on the street where you could hurt yourself or worse someone else.

Driving Skills for Life, Working to Save Young Lives

What's the number one killer of teenagers?  You might be surprised to hear it's not drugs, guns, or alcohol.  It's vehicle fatalities.  One car manufacturer that is making an effort to combat this problem is Ford with it's Driving Skills for Life (DSFL) program.  With DSFL, Ford aims to educate new drivers about safe driving principles.  “We want to get the numbers down” says Jim Graham, Manager of DSFL.

DSFL events, which are held around the country, have overwhelming demand.  The events put teenagers behind the wheel with a professional race car driver to learn emergency maneuvers and how to handle dangerous road conditions and situations.  The hands-on instruction teaches the four key principles of DSFL: hazard recognition, speed management, space management, and vehicle handling.  You would think that teenagers would be excited at the opportunity to get into a car with a race car driver.  To some people, like a particular writer, it would be awesome to do this.  “At first they don't want to go.”  says Graham but, “Once they get into the car they want to do it again. We use young teachers that are considered cool and that the kids respond well too.”  Not only do teenagers love DSFL but parents have positive experiences as well.  “Parents get in the cars with teens.  For the most part they have not had professional driving safety training either.  They learn a lot as well.  Parents love the program.”

The program has saved lives in Illinois.  Outside Peoria 15 teenagers died in 1 year period.  DSFL went in to help address this issue.  They worked with the state and community and thus far there have been no new fatalities in the county.  They are now operating in the whole state and now there is a 50% reduction of teenage vehicle fatalities in the state of Illinois.  Great work!

DSFL also has help from celebrities to get the word out.  Kate Voegele, a musician and singer, talks with teenagers about safe driving habits through DSFL programs.  Colin Braun, a NASCAR driver, and Toby Keith, a country musician, have also contributed.  Braun spreads the message at tracks and through his social media network.  Keith made a Public Service Announcement (PSA) “No text message is worth your life” for DSFL.  The newest celebrity addition to the DSFL arsenal is Courtney Force, drag racing champion, and daughter of legendary drag racer John Force.  Courtney will be speaking with teenagers about safe driving habits around the country.

Ford not only aims to have DSFL events to teach teenagers and parents about driving, but to bring updated information right to you with their website.  “Learning to drive successfully is a life long learning experience.”  says Graham.  This is reflected in the vast content on the website which includes a safe driving simulator, educational materials, tips, videos, etc.  There are even downloadable school programs for teachers.  It's an all around resource for updated information regarding safe driving and how to develop better habits.

Driving Skills for Life is fully funded by Ford Motor Company.  The company even developed the program and will continue with it for a long time to come, as the number of newly licensed drivers grows every year.  In short, DSFL is a great service to the community that is saving lives.

R&H 1st Annual car show to benefit the Children’s Guild – Saturday July 16th

Ford GT

R&H Toyota will be holding their 1st Annual Car Show tomorrow, July 16th.  There will be great activities and events taking place, all for raising money for the Children's Guild.  A wonderful organization that serves the needs of children with trauma disorders, autism, or disabilities in the Maryland and DC area.  What was the impetus for starting the car show?  “We moved our service location from Reisterstown Road, and people didn't know where we were.  We decided to put on a car show and donate the proceeds to a worthy Charity.   The Children's Guild was an excellent choice.” says Jan Braverman coordinator for the event.

The show will include over 100 different vehicles of all kinds.  There will be Ferraris, Porsches, motorcycles, hot-rods, and imports at the show.  Mobil1 will have a racing simulator setup for attendees to try out and they will bring their NASCAR race car to display.  Shell will also have a racing simulator and their race car as well.  (A certain blogger is definitely going to try out both racing simulators.)  An automotive rotisserie, which aids in car restoration, will on be display as well.  R&H Toyota and R&H Mercedez-Benz will be setup with booths, raising money, and selling items for the Children's Guild.  All participants in the car show will receive a goodie bag and dash plaque.  New cars will also be on display from R&H if you are in the market for a new vehicle.

The show is Free for attendees, and it will be a great event.  Remember it's not just about cars, it supports the Children's Guild.

What: 1st Annual R&H Car Show to support the Children's Guild

When: Saturday, July 16th 2011 (9am – 3pm)

Where: Toyota Service Center, 15 Music Fair Rd, Owings Mills MD, 21117

Admission: Free for attendees, $15 pre-registration $25 day of show to participate