AUGUST 11, 2009
Good news for Toyota
The Toyota Motor Company is losing a lot of money at the moment as a result of the economic downturn. The company has a new boss in Akio Toyoda. He is instituting a relentless cost-cutting plan to try to get the company back into profit.
In 2007 Toyota's then new F1 team principal Tadashi Yamashina said that he had been given two years to deliver results for Toyota in F1, following years of underperformance despite having one of the biggest budgets in F1. In January the team admitted that because of the world financial crisis its F1 programme was under scrutiny but the then boss Katsuaki Watanabe decided to continue.
Toyota has since been at the forefront of the cost-cutting plans in F1 which has made the F1 involvement more cost-effective but performance is still important and the pressure remains on the team to win races. A few months ago the team's John Howett said that "if we have a weak season we have no future" and that "we feel we must win to secure a very bright future in F1". That has not happened. Jarno Trulli is currently sixth in the Drivers' Championship but his early season third and fourth places have faded and in recent events he has struggled to score. Timo Glock is 10th in the championship and he has suffered the same decline in performance. Toyota remains fourth in the Constrcutors at the moment behind Brawn, Red Bull and Ferrari but McLaren and Williams are on an upward trend and could catch Toyota. This would make life more difficult for Panasonic Toyota Racing because being beaten by customer Williams would not be a good reflection on the activities in Cologne, particularly as Williams is small and relatively under-funded compared to the main effort.
The good news for Toyota is that Toyoda is a motorsport fan, who has even raced himself on occasion. He is planning to help Toyota by creating exciting new cars, including an affordable sports car. Thus maintaining a sporting image for Toyota is important and the F1 programme will get a new lease of life.
Details of the new project are few and far between but it seems that it will be a joint venture with Subaru. The rumours suggest that it will be a rear-wheel-drive car fitted with a Subaru boxer engine. Each brand will have its own version of the car. Production will start in Japan in late 2011.
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