MARCH 20, 2000
...and what happens to Walkinshaw?
IT has not been a good week for Tom Walkinshaw. The Scotsman had been hoping that Renault would decide to buy a share of the Arrows team and return to F1 with the Leafield team. As part of the negotiations Walkinshaw had reached agreement with Renault to build "Renault Sport" versions of the Clio at his Autonova factory in Uddevalla, Sweden.
Last week not only did Renault conclude a deal to acquire the Benetton team but the Uddevalla factory was closed down as a result of a dispute between Walkinshaw and the Volvo Car Corporation, his partner in Autonova AB. The two parties are fighting over accounting methods at Autonova, which has been in operation since 1995. Volvo, which was taken over by the Ford Motor Company in February last year, has refused to agree to the accounts produced for 1998, which showed Autonova making a loss of $35m. As a result Ford withdrew the Volvo directors from the Autonova board last autumn and made Walkinshaw an offer for the factory. This was rejected. Following the breakdown of those talks Ford refused to make payments for cars being produced and this, Walkinshaw says, led to him being forced to shut down the plant and lay off 800 workers.
The problem for Walkinshaw is that he is now not making any money at Uddevalla - a major source of income for the TWR Group - and he is unlikely to be able to use the existing facility to build Renault cars without first sorting out the problems with Ford.
In Formula 1 terms, Walkinshaw now needs to go and find a new engine manufacturer if he wants to make progress with Arrows and with the automotive industry consolidating rapidly, that is not going to be easy.
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