Automobile manufacturers involved in cycling are nothing new. But Nissan will be first and currenly only carmaker title sponsor among the top-level World Tour team in 2012 with the announcement Monday that the Japanese carmaker will be part of the newly named RadioShack-Nissan-Trek Professional Cycling Team.
The squad represents the merger of the current Leopard-Trek squad and the Team RadioShack squad. The latter is partially owned by Lance Armstrong, the seven-time Tour de France winner who competed for the squad in 2010 and for one race this season before retiring in January at the Tour Down Under in Australia.
The team will hold a license in Luxembourg, with marketing operated out of Austin, Texas, by CSE Pro Cycling LLC. All sporting operations will be managed by Johan Bruyneel Sports Management in both Belgium and Luxembourg.
Key riders on the new team for 2012, the first of a two-year commitment for the new title sponsors: Time trial world champion Fabian Cancellara of Switzerland; Andy and Fränk Schleck of Luxembourt, the second and third place finishers at the 2011 Tour de France; Tour of California champion Chris Horner of Bend, Ore., two-time Tour de France runner-up Andreas Klöden of Germany as well as numerous top riders from the current two squads.
Nissan was named as a secondary sponsor of the RadioShack team by Lance Armstrong nearing the end of the first year of his second comeback at the 2009 Tour de France.
Armstrong also entered a sponsorship relationship with Nissan. Part of the relationship was Armstrong being presented the first Nissan Leaf, the carmaker's much-touted electric vehicle.
Armstrong was also featured in television commercials promoting the new "green" car.
Leopard-Trek raced its first season on the World Tour this year, mostly recently in the U.S. at the inaugural USA Pro Cycling Challenge.
Several other automakers are currently involved in cycling, including: Acura, Volvo, Volkswagen and Subaru.
Skoda, the Czechoslovakian manufactuer, is the official car of the Tour de France.