This Pandemic Is Crushing Our Industry. It Could Crush Us, Too.

We may have been smiling when this photo was taken, but right now, things aren’t looking good. 

There, we said it. And we’re not talking about us. We’re talking about you. You’re hurting. You’re scared. You’re bored. You’re tired. You’re ready for this all to be over.

We’ve watched our community lose their minds, lose their jobs, and even lose their loved ones in a sprawling Coronavirus thread on our forum spanning more than 100 pages

We’ve watched our site traffic spike as people suddenly find themselves with no work to do on a weekday morning. 

We’ve seen a marked increase in digital subscription access, since even the mailbox has become too risky. 

Look beyond the personal level, and the news in the broader motorsports industry isn’t much better. 

Today the SCCA furloughed most of its staff in a bid to survive the coming weeks. More than 30 states have completely shut down. In just over a week, an entire country’s worth of race tracks, sanctioning bodies, parts suppliers, safety gear sellers, and more–the entire motorsports industry–did a panic stop in order to prevent this virus from hurting more people than it already will. Some have shifted gears, now building PPE for medical professionals instead of parts for car nuts like us. 

It’s worth mentioning that most of the players made these calls, the calls that could end up costing this industry its life, before government action made them inevitable. The industry stepped up, and now it’s facing ruination. 

One thing is certain: Cars, racing, enthusiasts and the world we’ve built around them will survive this, just like it’s survived every other setback since the horse went out of style a century ago. 

But it’s not at all certain what the car world will look like when this is all said and done. We’re not naive–we know playing with cars requires a certain amount of disposable income, and that income is often the first to go in a crisis–and a world built on money that ebbs and flows will always be in a constant state of change. 

But this time feels different. The SCCA, an institution for 76 years and the creator of modern sports car racing, has had rough years, but it’s never laid off most of its staff. It just announced its #SupportMotorsport campaign in a bid to keep this industry alive. 

In fact, the events business as a whole, already a tough nut to crack, seems to be reaching a dead end as mortgage payments and bills pile up while the gates remain padlocked. Remember when noise restrictions were your local race track’s biggest issues? They’d kill to have those problems back today.

Between the broader economic uncertainty and the lack of places to race, it means very few people are ordering parts for their cars, buying tickets to events, ordering T-shirts, or doing anything else that normally keeps our world functioning. 

This isn’t a complicated industry. Unlike the real world, there are no wolfs of Wall Street running elaborate hustles and no vast interconnected global financial systems. In fact, it’s refreshingly simple: People make money at their day jobs, then throw it at their cars on the weekend. And when they stop, well, so does this. 

And it affects us, too. Like any media company, most of our revenue comes from advertising. In the past we’ve had advertisers withdraw from our market, but never like this. Our sales staff now spends their days at home, quarantined, leaving voicemails on phones that might not be touched for months, and reading out-of-office replies from senders who may never login to that account again. 

Our hardship doesn’t compare to the hardships faced by so many right now. Nobody’s died, nobody’s lost their homes, and all of our employees are still employed at their full salaries with paid-for healthcare despite being stuck at home. But that can’t continue forever, and it can’t even continue much longer unless you show your support. Frustrating though it is, just as you’re relying on us now more than ever to be a source of comfort, distraction and community, we’re now relying on you more than ever. 

Put simply, we face an existential threat unless you #SupportMotorsport and support us, too. We’d like to still be a part of the motorsports world when it emerges from this crisis in a few months, but we’re not going to be unless you support us any way you can. 

How can you support us? If you don’t already, please subscribe to the magazine. Our subscribers pay our bills, our production staff, and our writers. They’re also the prime audience our advertisers hope to reach, and every additional subscriber is another member of a market that will save this industry. 

After that, please consider picking up some merchandise from our online store. It might just be a super sweet $10 T-shirt to you, but to us it provides a chunk of payroll, a reason for UPS to keep our friendly driver employed (Hi Juan!), and a way for our always-local T-shirt printers to keep food on their tables, too. 

If you can’t send us money, we understand, but we will still ask you to do one thing: Help us spread the word. Share us with your friends. Watch our YouTube channel. Click on some banner ads to look at all of the cool stuff our advertisers have built for you. In a world where success and failure are just a few page views apart, your presence here matters more than ever.

Above all, though, stay safe. Lock yourself in your garage and finish that damn project. Order some parts, even if it means spraying them down with disinfectant once they arrive. And don’t be afraid to start racing again once this all blows over. Hopefully we’ll be here to unlock the gates with you.

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Comments
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sbcheekjr
sbcheekjr
4/2/20 12:34 p.m.

Well written! Never read anything more insightful and from the heart.  Yes, I will admit:  it made me bawl.  

brandy55
brandy55
4/2/20 12:44 p.m.

We love Classic Motorsports and have been a subscriber for probably 10 years.

But all of us have been in this for maybe 2-3 weeks and it's that desperate already?
 

Not sure of the economics of running 2 magazines but maybe combine them for a while?

you have been running more and more race car related articles in CM anyway.

Best of luck!

Marjorie Suddard
Marjorie Suddard General Manager
4/2/20 1:03 p.m.

In reply to brandy55 :

Not sure of your age, so perhaps you're retired and not aware of the situation in the workplace, but yes, working folks are being idled at an unprecedented rate. Race tracks are shuttered. Parts businesses are closed as nonessential. The people we do business with, and the people who buy parts--and magazines--have found themselves going from business as usual to full stop in the span of 2-3 weeks. That's the kind of neck-snapping impact that has fast effects, and unfortunately there's no Hans device for unforeseen economic disasters.

Sorry if the real talk put you off, but this is happening. Check out this thread on our Grassroots forum: The lost job thread

Thanks for reading.

Margie

Charles
Charles New Reader
4/2/20 1:51 p.m.

I am the parish administrator at a US Anglican Church (Church of England).  We are small and maintain a month of cash on hand.  Our month of cash is gone.  Members usually pay tithes and offerings by check or cash each week in person.  The loss of the weekly service has set everything back.  Just this last week we have started getting checks by mail and our existing PayPal account has received some donations.

Cash flow is important to a business and a Church.  If you attend a local church please send in your Tithes and offerings by mail/PayPal.  They may need it more than you realize.

rsikes
rsikes New Reader
4/2/20 3:31 p.m.

Ok, upping my subscription today!  I'll be clicking on every ad I see and checking out all kinds of cool stuff - shoot, I might by another mouse just to help out!

I know some organizations that have gone to electronic delivery of content until this is over.  Of course the hurts the folks that print?  I cool with whatever you guys need to do!

Be Safe and hang in there!

Gregory Thompson
Gregory Thompson
4/2/20 4:38 p.m.

I have been doing my best these past two weeks ordering from vendors that are able to stay open for both my British cars and the German ones too. Turning off the news and retreating to my shop is the best thing to get my mind off COVID-19.  We will get through this as a country but it will take everyone doing their part.  I read an article about fear and how it can paralyze you so please do all you can to take care of your health, both physical and mental.   

Greg in MN

bosswrench
bosswrench New Reader
4/2/20 5:09 p.m.

Well said, Tim. I worry about people like you being stretched thin and burning out in the hobby- as happened to me for a decade or so.

On a personal note, I "sold" a car last week. The qualifiers are because the State DMV is closed tight, no employees permited inside, with no real estimate of when it will reopen- perhaps June? July? So my buyer has the car & has paid for it in full but cannot get license plates, tags and/or an official transfer of title.

He will be forced to park his 'new car' or drive around with my plates, expired tags & registration, wrong paperwork and a hand-written Bill of Sale to prove ownership.  And since there's so little officially permitted driving nowadays, he's quite likely to be stopped.  We're hoping for sympathetic policemen; even fix-it tickets are impossible to clear! OK- not like dying, but still....

Jonwithnoh
Jonwithnoh New Reader
4/2/20 5:11 p.m.

Hang in there.  Just bought some shirts from the store.  I would rather be home working on my car. but as an essential employee I continue to work.  Nervously.  We'll get through this.  Stay Safe.

Duane1
Duane1
4/2/20 7:01 p.m.

I just subscribed to CM and GM. They are both great magazines, I certainly hope you guys can stay afloat and get through this. It's a shame we can't get your t shirts in Canada.

dobert
dobert
4/3/20 1:20 a.m.

Just signed up for a subscription to both.

I have been either involved in motorsports or a spectator for over 30 years.  You have my support !

 

Stay Safe,

Doug

Tom Suddard
Tom Suddard Director of Marketing & Digital Assets
4/3/20 8:39 a.m.

Thanks for the support, everybody. It really does mean the world to us.

And Tim's my father. I'm Tom, his son.

klharper
klharper New Reader
4/3/20 10:00 a.m.

In reply to Marjorie Suddard :

Hello, I am kind of with Brandy55, I am not seeing this desperation. I run a small shop that deals exclusively with vintage cars, and eventually I may see an impact, but currently I am so far behind and the waiting list is long to get in the shop, that I haven't seen and impact as of yet and I haven't had a single cancellation. On the plus side I am still ordering parts from vendors and they are still coming in on time.

My machine shop guy is the same way, in his words when this started everyone apparently pulled their heads to get work done.

I also have a friend that does vintage race car rentals, and that business has stopped and he may go out of business, but I also know that he lives close to the financial edge. So I do know of some hardships and this catastrophe is hitting some, but the few that I know of were already tittering on the brink.

Tracks I worry about, because I know the profit margins are small and you pretty much have to open a track because you love the sport. I know they could not do big events but I do wish they had stayed open for lapping days (Yes I know some may be governmentally shutdown and prevented from doing this) I would love to go to the track and do some lapping and it is easy enough to keep your distance from everyone else. In reality I hope that the track owners have deep enough pockets to ride out this storm.

The SCCA shutting down does not surprise me, they have been dying for years. Perhaps it is time they go away and let some new organizations see if they can reinvigorate the sport. 

I know it is tough for some, but keep your chin up and watch your bottom line. I am continuing work as usual and I am taking vintage cars out for long drives. The weather is beautiful, gas is cheap, and the roads have little traffic. 

 

Automotorist
Automotorist New Reader
4/3/20 4:44 p.m.
Marjorie Suddard said:

In reply to brandy55 :

Not sure of your age, so perhaps you're retired and not aware of the situation in the workplace, but yes, working folks are being idled at an unprecedented rate. Race tracks are shuttered. Parts businesses are closed as nonessential. The people we do business with, and the people who buy parts--and magazines--have found themselves going from business as usual to full stop in the span of 2-3 weeks. That's the kind of neck-snapping impact that has fast effects, and unfortunately there's no Hans device for unforeseen economic disasters.

Sorry if the real talk put you off, but this is happening. Check out this thread on our Grassroots forum: The lost job thread

Thanks for reading.

Margie

Your fear is obvious from what I'd consider a curt response to @brandy55.  However your response does nothing to explain the situation.

I too have a tough time despite my former business experience understanding how 3 weeks can put your magazine in a position where the doors need to be shuttered permanently.  

Perhaps a brief behind the scenes look at how the mag operates might open our eyes(and our wallets). 

mvh
mvh New Reader
4/3/20 6:15 p.m.

I think these different points of view are due to the different responses at the state level. For instance, the entire west coast is shut down — nobody is working except for "essential services". Body shops, resto shops, parts vendors, mechanics, all closed down. Nationwide, 10 milllion unemployment claims in one week — that is serious. Predictions of 30-40% unemployment within weeks. If your state isn't shut down yet, just wait — you will be shut down within a week, or you will be in the middle of a disaster hot zone in three weeks (which will be worse).

I used to work on a monthly magazine. Think about what it takes to get an issue from zero to mailbox in 4 freaking weeks (yes, I know CM is on an 8 week turn, but there are 2 magazines). Write and edit the content; shoot and edit the photos; sell the ads and integrate the artwork; layout every single page (with nothing left over!); then as soon as it's out the door, start on the next issue. But in this case, there are no ads lined up for the next issue, and it's the ad income that pays for the printing, not to mention the salaries.

So I get it. As an independent graphic designer, my work has vanished as my clients have folded up, anticipating huge losses of their own. But that's not the point, I'm just trying to provide some perspective for those folks who can't see what the problem is.

Tim Suddard
Tim Suddard Publisher
4/5/20 9:52 a.m.

Our biggest worry is if our advertisers shut down, they won't need to advertisde. So far, we are only off 5-10% and have had a huge outpouring of loyalty, but with our low subscription prices, we need those advertisers to survive. 

If this whole deal is over in a month or two, we will be fine, but if it isn't and/or it causes a recession, the likes of what we haven't seen since the great depression, we are going to have to make some real changes.

Thanks everyone for your support.

Jerry From LA
Jerry From LA SuperDork
4/9/20 12:31 a.m.

In reply to Automotorist :

For those of us who have been reading along since 1984 (I started with GRM issue #3), not to mention being a forum member since the late '90s ("member since 2007" referring to only the latest iteration of the forum software), a "brief behind the scenes look" at how the mag(s) run is not really necessary.  GRM (and by extension CMS) has always been forthright about how they run their store.  What Tim, Tom, and Margie have said is enough for the grand majority of us to support them in any way possible.

As Tim wrote above, ten percent of their ad sales may seem like no big deal but, as Mr Bob Dylan once wrote, "You don't have to be a weatherman to know which way the wind blows."  Ten percent may be just the beginning.  Seeing the tornado on the horizon is the time to take shelter, not when it's 30 feet from your house.

My wife's home staging and interior design business has been deemed non-essential.  It's pretty much just de-stagings now (removing inventory from a sold house).  I am laid off from my position there.  Everyone else draws just enough for food and rent.

My other job at  Autobooks-Aerobooks evaporated because the front of the store is closed and the back-door mail-order stuff has faltered enough (due to customers worrying about their own situations) so it won't support the owners and myself.  The ax fell one day after the big shutdown (see Mr Dylan).  I only mention this because GRM/CMS' business doesn't draw from a 25-mile radius.  It is a world-wide business (as is Autobooks) and we face a world-wide problem. This is also not Motorsport Marketing's first trip to the edge of the cliff so they're familiar with the scenery, though it's been quite awhile.  I guarantee you that view hasn't changed much.

If you and Mr 55 don't see any reason to ask the readers of this forum to make a contribution unless Tim and Margie "open the books," you are entitled to that opinion.  After all, they operated this forum without charge for the last 25 years or so.  The fact they even asked is enough for us.  They never asked before.

As someone who works for two family businesses, perhaps I have a little more insight regarding the family business called Motorsport Marketing. That's why, despite having lost two jobs and an uncertain near-future, I still bought a shirt.  I know what their business means to them.  I know how hard it is to ask.  And I know life would suck a little more right now if they weren't around.

Tim Suddard
Tim Suddard Publisher
4/10/20 9:58 a.m.

In reply to klharper :

That's good news.

 

mtn
mtn MegaDork
4/10/20 10:21 a.m.

Just got a year subscription with my 10 year GRM subscription. Can't wait!

tr8bob
tr8bob None
4/10/20 11:45 a.m.

My wife and I are extremely lucky to be retired and living in a rural area of Canada which makes it much easier to self isolate.   While not wealthy, we have been able to send some restoration work to a local shop and to extend our subscriptions to Classic Motorsports and other magazines.   I'll also be ordering car parts in the near future from my usual suppliers.

I know it's not a lot, but hopefully every little bit helps us to get through this crisis and back to the car hobby we love.

 

       

Tim Suddard
Tim Suddard Publisher
4/13/20 1:43 p.m.

In reply to Jerry From LA :

Autobooks was one such good customer that we can't call on for a while.

 

Marjorie Suddard
Marjorie Suddard General Manager
4/16/20 10:36 a.m.
mvh said:

I think these different points of view are due to the different responses at the state level. For instance, the entire west coast is shut down — nobody is working except for "essential services". Body shops, resto shops, parts vendors, mechanics, all closed down. Nationwide, 10 milllion unemployment claims in one week — that is serious. Predictions of 30-40% unemployment within weeks. If your state isn't shut down yet, just wait — you will be shut down within a week, or you will be in the middle of a disaster hot zone in three weeks (which will be worse).

I used to work on a monthly magazine. Think about what it takes to get an issue from zero to mailbox in 4 freaking weeks (yes, I know CM is on an 8 week turn, but there are 2 magazines). Write and edit the content; shoot and edit the photos; sell the ads and integrate the artwork; layout every single page (with nothing left over!); then as soon as it's out the door, start on the next issue. But in this case, there are no ads lined up for the next issue, and it's the ad income that pays for the printing, not to mention the salaries.

So I get it. As an independent graphic designer, my work has vanished as my clients have folded up, anticipating huge losses of their own. But that's not the point, I'm just trying to provide some perspective for those folks who can't see what the problem is.

To those asking to understand, see above. Our two magazines function on a three-week deadline each. So it's been a couple of issue deadlines since this started, and as Jerry said, you don't have to be a weatherman to see which way the wind is blowing. (As an aside, Jerry, so sorry to hear you're out of Autobooks/Aerobooks while this goes on.) 

As a CFO who has been constantly re-forecasting 2020 (each time downward), I can surely see it. Advertisers are dropping, and receivables literally grow longer every day. That’s the money I use for payroll, printing, mailing, and in general keeping the doors open.

If my fear is detectable, it's because I have a small staff of 12 families that depend on us. I do not want to let them down. We have savings and we have credit, so our doors aren't closing tomorrow. But the domino effect that is starting will, eventually, come for us if we aren't able to continue selling advertising and subscriptions.

I am glad to hear that so many of your shops are going gangbusters. Perhaps one of you would be interested in buying an ad? wink

Margie

Andrewsky
Andrewsky New Reader
4/16/20 6:07 p.m.

I wish that the world will survive this pandemic soon. Let us help and be kind to one another. 

swintyulna
swintyulna New Reader
4/16/20 10:52 p.m.

I agree, that nobody in this world has prepared for it. This is a chance of survival of the discipline and smart people. 

Jerry From LA
Jerry From LA SuperDork
4/17/20 12:35 a.m.
Marjorie Suddard said:

I am glad to hear that so many of your shops are going gangbusters. Perhaps one of you would be interested in buying an ad? wink

Margie

At this point, no one would blame you if you lost the emoji and replaced the question mark with a period.

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