The all-wheel-drive experience Subaru New Zealand has put in place at the Highlands Motorsports Park in Cromwell has already become a magnet for corporate tour groups to the country’s premier tourist playground.
The carmaker’s Japanese head office is “totally fascinated” by the concept, said Subaru NZ managing director Wallis Dumper.
“The head of marketing in Japan has been here to see what we are doing,” he said. “Now they are talking about flying in groups for the experience.
“Subaru Australia is looking at using it as an incentive scheme, bringing across marketing teams, dealers, or offering customers the chance to win the drive experience.
“Subaru people in Latin and South America want to know all about it. We’ve had enquiries from Subaru in Columbia, Peru, Chile.”
Subaru NZ has given Highlands Park and its high-performance drive instructors five all-wheel-drive WRX models and one go-faster WRX STi for the programme. “They will be sold off through our dealers and replaced about three times a year,” said Dumper.
Three corporate packages are available for the 4.1km circuit: four-hours, two hours, and a 30-minute ‘teaser’. The four-hour deal comes with the ‘works’ – entry into the National Motorsport Museum, access to the private GT lounge, and five unique action experiences on the circuit.
The four-hour experience costs $5000, the two-hour $3700, both packaged to allow up to 15 participants. The ‘teaser’ is limited to a minimum of 20 people. Ten participants in the four-hour, for example, works out at $500 each. Similarly, 15 in the two-hour is $246 a head.
Dumper said the idea for a partnership with Highlands came about last year, “when we looking to use the circuit for a Subaru event. It grew from there.
“It’s cost-effective, it takes away the risk management for us, and it’s a chance to expose the brand to people who might not consider a Subaru.
“A company’s top 10 executives, for example, could fly into Queenstown for a conference and take time out to do the Subaru drive on the track at Cromwell. Where else could you get that experience without it costing a fortune”, said Dumper.
He knew he was on to a good thing when he was in Japan late last year. “Subaru’s Latin and South American distributors were also there. I was telling them how we had set up the drive programme with a world-class race circuit. They were stunned.
“Subaru distributors in Columbia, Peru, Chile are not much bigger than New Zealand’s. It’s different for big companies like Subaru America – they can do these programmes easily. But New Zealand? How did New Zealand do it, they asked. Now they know.”
Josie Spillane, the chief operating officer for Highlands, said bookings had been locked in before the official launch. “Highlands has become a much sought-after destination for domestic and international companies looking to reward staff, host prospective clients, or celebrate a company milestone,” she said.
“Our out-of-the-box approach to tourism has meant that companies can be assured that their participants have not had an experience like Highlands before.”