Toyota to Leave F1, High-Cost Business Structure Behind
11, 20. 2009
Toyota Motor Corp. announced on November 4 2009 that it plans to withdraw from Formula One racing at the end of the 2009 season Toyota once stated clearly it would continue to stay in F1 until 2012 while its rival Honda gave it up. Suzuki and Subaru also quit the World Rally Championship as a consequence of the global financial crisis that began in the Fall of 2008.
Toyota made this tough decision because its business recovery is in a slow pace. Thanks to the tax reduction for those who purchase an eco-friendly car, its hybrid car brand Prius and its compact vehicle Vits are generating good sales. However, the auto company expects to post an operating loss in fiscal 2009, marking 2 years straight in the red.
F1 costs Toyota tens of billions of yens annually. Akio Toyoda, President of Toyota said at a press conference, "We made a difficult decision based on the current business environment as well as the medium-long term aspects." Japanese F1 drivers, Kazuki Nakajima and Kamui Kobayashi, both of whom Toyota has trained, have difficulty foreseeing the next season due to Toyota's withdrawal. Toyota F1 team Principal Tadashi Yamashina showed up at the press conference with president Toyoda and said, "I would prefer Nakajima and Kobayashi to find a driver's spot at a different team." Yamashina then found himself without words and wept. This scene was repeatedly broadcasted on TV news programs.
Renault Reportedly in Discussion about Possible Withdrawal
Bridgestone is another Japanese company who is exiting F1. The company has announced it will stop tire supply after the next season ends. Bridgestone's competitors, Goodyear in the U.S.A. and Michelin in France have already been out of F1, and Bridgestone is the sole tire supplier today. It is reported that Korean tire maker Kumho may step forward to auto racing after Bridgestone.
After Toyota's pullout, the major automakers remaining in F1 are Ferrari, Renault and Mercedes-Benz. Even Renault is reportedly considering its withdrawal. If it becomes true, F1 may face a survival crisis.
Although Toyota leaves F1, the company stated it will "contribute to further development of motor sports by supporting grassroots races and planning events."