Cuts in Detroit - no problems in Milton Keynes?

THE news that the Ford Motor Company is closing five factories in North America and laying off 35,000 people has been followed by comments from Jaguar Racing that this will have no effect on the Formula 1 project. But can that be true? Can Ford really wipe out such large numbers of people and yet keep supporting an unsuccessful team in Formula 1 which is costing vast sums of money.

The argument in favor of the race team is that it teaches Ford Motor Company people to think and act quicker. This is a nice idea but in three years there have been few signs that this has achieved much and we constantly hear suggestions from the team that Ford interference has slowed down things which should have been done much quicker than they were. It certainly did not help the team that the management was changed in the midseason last year simply because one executive did not agree with another. These are things that set a team back.

But that is not really the issue. Jaguar Racing is there to change the image of Jaguar Cars. Jaguar is not selling enough cars to pay for the program and so Ford is having to help out. When Jac Nasser was in charge in Detroit the project was never under threat. It was his idea. Now Nasser is gone and the company is being run by people who look first and foremost at the bottom line. There is none of the passion for F1 that Nasser had. If the program was successful one would not question its existence but it is not. This is the third year that the team has been in Jaguar colors and the results achieved have been rather less than impressive. It would be amazing if there were not a few questions being asked by the bean-counters in Detroit. Jaguar is fortunate in a way as Dr. Wolfgang Reitzle, the head of the Premier Automotive Group, presides over one of the few areas of the business which has been successful of late. But these things are relative. Is the money invested going to bring a big enough return or would the money be better off being used elsewhere?

Jaguar Racing is not going to get axed overnight but there is no doubt that if there is not a clear improvement in performance in the first few races of the year it is going to be very hard for the racers to argue that the program is a good idea if the accountants come knocking on the door, asking Jaguar Racing to justify its existence.

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