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Toyota and Formula 1

AS we suggested in March, Toyota is considering a Formula 1 program and company president Hiroshi Okuda last week refused to deny the possibility of a Toyota F1 team. The company later insisted that no decision had been taken but the fact that Toyota's big rival Honda has announced that it is planning to return to F1 with its own team has added to speculation that a Toyota is due and that it will be timed to coincide with the lowering of the automotive trade barriers in the European Union in the year 2000. Toyota is already gearing up for a big assault in Europe with the announcement of plans to build a factory at Valenciennes, in France.

Toyota last week announced a 17% leap in pre-tax profits to a record $4bn in 1997 at a time when most Japanese car makers are stumbling badly. The company has also just announced that it is planning to built an automotive theme park, similar to Honda's facility at Suzuka. The Toyota plan is for the park to be situated on the waterfront in Tokyo.

Although there are people in Formula 1 who hope that Nissan will enter the sport shortly the company last week announced a major restructuring after announcing its fifth loss in six years. The 1997 loss was $107m.

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