Now Toyota quits Formula One

Posted by: Ian Rowley on November 4, 2009

At a hastily arranged press conference this evening in Tokyo, Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda announced that the carmaker is the latest big player to quit Formula One motorsport. Toyota, which competed in 139 races after entering the sport in 2002, recording no wins, will quit immediately. Toyoda said the company will also stop providing engines to the Williams team. “It’s a complete withdrawal,” he said, citing the “the current severe economic realities”. Toyota follows Honda, which quit F1 last December, and BMW which entered its final race on Nov. 1 in Abu Dhabi. On Nov. 2, Japanese tire-maker Bridgestone said it would pull also out of the sport, saving $100 million a year.

While long rumored, Toyota’s decision to quit wasn’t a certainty. For one thing, since becoming CEO in June, Toyoda, a keen racer, has talked of giving Toyota a sportier image. At last month’s Tokyo Motor Show, Toyota showed the $375,000 Lexus LFA supercar, which its CEO had a hand in developing, and the rear-wheel drive FT-86 sports concept.

Despite never winning a race, this season wasn’t all bad and included several podium finishes. And, after an injury to first-choice driver Timo Glock, Kamui Kobayashi, a Japanese driver who graduated from Toyota’s driver training scheme, impressed in the final two races. Toyoda said the decision has nothing to do with Toyota’s poor record in F1. Indeed, with Toyota expected to post a second consecutive annual loss this fiscal year, it is in some ways surprising it took this long to quit. Running a F1 team can cost upwards of $500 million a year.

A bit like Honda last year, the decision may also make good business sense. Spending such large sums on a sport that isn’t a huge draw in the U.S. isn’t the best use of limited resources. On top of that, gas guzzling F1 cars don’t sit comfortably with Toyota’s carefully honed “green” image, while it’s hard to see their relevance to any of the company’s production cars, save the Lexus LFA. And, if all that isn’t reason enough, F1’s teams and management haven’t covered themselves in glory in recent times. In 2007, the McLaren team was fined $100 million for its part in a spying scandal. Last year, Toyota was one of several teams that put its name to a statement attacking Max Mosley, the chairman of the sport’s governing body, after he became embroiled in an embarrassing sex scandal. And this year Flavio Briatore, the chief of the Renault team, was banned for life after instructing one of the team’s drivers to crash on purpose.

Reader Comments

Terry

November 4, 2009 8:36 AM

Well let's hope that Kobayashi can find a set..he was impressive....

Barry

November 4, 2009 9:03 AM

This is the best news about Toyota F1 so far.
What Toyota needed was a Ferarri killer.
F1 was the opportunity. One Problem, F1 is only to some extent manufacturer dependent. rest is driver, tires etc.
Furthermore, more importantly
Budget for 1 year of F1= 500,000,000 USD.
Budget for all 200 X 375,000 USD LFA Production.
which one is a more direct Ferarri Killer, which one is better marketing.
Which one makes better math.
2 years F1 fooling around? or LFA production...all of it!!
The choice could not be clearer.

Mike

November 4, 2009 9:35 AM

I agree regarding Kobayashi; the kid looked great. Its a breath of fresh air after seeing some hack GP2 champs come into the sport just to be permanent back markers.

And an LFA doesn't cost $375k to build, that's the MSRP.

Regardless, F1 is a money pit and they aren't going to see any rewards in the US market. Hopefully, with US F1 next year, there will be some increased American interest in the sport.

Boony

November 4, 2009 9:35 AM

F1 has been confused and searching for an identity for a while. Apparently it has decided that "soap opera" is the identity and the entry price is an arm, a leg, and $500m.

Further, they've alienated just about everyone involved in the sport. F1 has played the spoiled rich kid for a while and perhaps it's catching up with them at last. Regulate the engine development right out of the sport? Factory sponsors lose a reason to participate. Regulate regulate regulate.

Here's an idea. Regulate safety and then let the best racer win. Put overall limits in place. X amount of displacement. X amount of weight. X amount of tire. Beyond that, let them innovate. I thought that was the whole reason for a manufacturer to enter. Well, that and winning.

btw

November 4, 2009 9:41 AM

Waste of money , good for them. Now they can work on fixing those runaway toyotas.

David

November 4, 2009 10:01 AM

Good. It's about time they got back to business.

Manolo

November 4, 2009 10:06 AM

They said the LFA will cost them in excess of $400K and will sell for less than that. So assuming the cost is $500K, they can build 1000 and give them away for free for the same cost of one year of F1 racing. Amazing!

Manolo

November 4, 2009 10:08 AM

Nissan has obtained tons more goodwill from the GT-R than all the Toyota involvement in F1 at a fraction of the cost.

Steve

November 4, 2009 10:11 AM

Toyota will need the extra money to cover the legal costs stemming from their malfunctioning floor mats.

gotogaol

November 4, 2009 10:11 AM

Let's hope NASCAR begins to lose its sponsors as well. The world would be a better place without NASCAR pollution and drunks driving home after races. What a waste of fuel, time, and money.....

Torty

November 4, 2009 10:15 AM

Toyota pulling out of F1 is a good move financially as other posters have pointed out. There are much better ways to market yourself as a car company that to spend $500,000,000 on a racing series that is largely irrelevant in one of your largest markets (USA).

alex

November 4, 2009 10:27 AM

"gas guzzling F1 cars don’t sit comfortably with Toyota’s carefully honed “green” image" i would disagree, f1 engines are more efficient in producing power thus greener for the power to "gas guzzling" ratio (as you called it). Not only that a big chunk of new technologies and engine improvements come from RND in f1 filed. In the end it was f1 own faliuer to lure enough sponsorship and viewers to keep the big company names on the list of competitors. Noone would of withdrawn if the sport popularity actually grew over the past 5 years.

MG

November 4, 2009 10:28 AM

Great decision by Toyota..F1 is such a boring sport...I wonder who watches..

The asian crowd deprived of good roads and infrastructure see this as a dream way to drive and tune in just like there is a movie craze...

Keline

November 4, 2009 10:41 AM

If giants like Toyota & Honda can't afford to stay in this expensive sports, what makes Malaysia's struggling Proton/Lotus think that they can succeed in the motor sports.

Isn't it a waste of resources which can be put to good use in other areas ?

gino

November 4, 2009 10:45 AM

Toyota should have never fired Mike Gascoyne (technical director) to begin with back in 2006. I bet they would have done better sticking with Gascoyne. I don’t blame them withdrawing tough especially when spending 500M USD a season and getting beat by teams with a budget of 50-80M USD. (teams that used to run on Michelins and switched over to Bridgestones just a couple of years ago whereas Toyota started on Bridgestone from day one. Bridgestone=Ferrari experience) That’s pretty embarrassing if you ask me.
Toyota just needs to move on from F1, go and build 4000 lbs “sports cars” with auto tranny \cup-holders and Ipod hook ups…they will do well in the US.

Grog

November 4, 2009 10:51 AM

Who gives a d--n? Toyota should put that money into getting a plug-in hybrid on the US market asap.

sensibly exciting

November 4, 2009 10:53 AM

Good,now all racing should switch over to non-oil sources of propulsion and leave the oil for the military/goods transport/mass transit/developing alt energy/etc. The races will be slower so just make the tracks more exciting.There's the future,run with it!

Bob

November 4, 2009 11:20 AM

Mike, although I expect USF1 to increase U.S. interest a bit, return of the USGP somewhere affordable would be an even bigger stimulus, don't you think? I atrtended all 7 GP's at Indy, and enjoyed every one!!!

Bob

November 4, 2009 11:20 AM

Mike, although I expect USF1 to increase U.S. interest a bit, return of the USGP somewhere affordable would be an even bigger stimulus, don't you think? I atrtended all 7 GP's at Indy, and enjoyed every one!!!

FED UP

November 4, 2009 11:24 AM

So sorry Mr. Toyoda loose face no win raci any time soon, but will continue to build boring product for sale to stupid us consurmer, oragato and ohio.

AJ Simkatu

November 4, 2009 11:58 AM

"Toyoda"? Really?

Steve

November 4, 2009 11:58 AM

Who cares about F1? I'm thinking you'll see the American Le Mans & Grand AM series rise in popularity. You have BMW, Porsche, Ford and now GM competing in cars most people can afford (Mustang & Camaro). Its far more interesting than F1 and if JJ keeps up his domination NASCAR.

herault

November 4, 2009 11:59 AM

F1 may be ready for a final pit-stop having run out of money.
What auto manufacturer can afford 500 million dollars a year just to make BERNIE ECCLESTONE a billionaire five times over.
Who needs to burn so much rubber and money going around each corner?
Travelling the world for self-gratification.
FIAT-Ferrari dont even win any races anymore. Mercedes-Benz could do with a less aggressive image....its all over BERNIE. On your bike BERNIE....

Karl

November 4, 2009 12:18 PM

Maybe all of Toyota's engines are infected with SLUDGE, & they won't run anymore. Anyone can 'Google' this- ENGINE SLUDGE, and go to the consumeraffairs website about 'Toyota Engine Problems' and read the complaints. Make sure to click on- 'Airbags' and read those complaints too. Thank You.

Tom

November 5, 2009 7:11 AM

Using the economic crisis is a cop out, an easy way for them to leave the sport without getting egg on their face. Fact is if Toyota had done any good in F1, they would be sticking around, and advertising to the world how their cars have F1 tech in it. But when your F1 cars are known to be consistently rubbish, despite having one of the highest budgets in the sport, then the marketing opportunity presented by F1 becomes an albatross around Toyota's neck. You can't mention your involvement in F1 because you are known as being at best average.

As for gas guzzling F1 cars, well given their involvement in Nascar with its much worse image for pointless gas guzzling racing, I don't see this as a reason at all.

N.B

November 8, 2009 9:30 AM

LUCKILY, WE HAVE A CAR MANUFACTURER THAT PUTS SAFETY AND QUALITY FIRST, BEFORE MAKING THE CASH.

THIS COMES FROM THE SUPERIOR BRAND THEY PRODUCE. THE LIKES OF VAUXHALL'S AND FORD MAY BE MAKING MONEY AT THE MOMENT,BUT CUSTOMERS SAT AT THE SIDE OF THE ROAD, UNHAPPY WITH THEIR BAGS OR CRAP THEY BOUGHT ARE NOT BEST PLEASED. THEY ARE FALLING AT THE WAYSIDE WITH SILLY FAULTS BECAUSE THEY FILL THEIR CARS WITH SUBSTANDARD PARTS TO EEK OUT THAT EXTRA PENNY FOR PROFIT. TOYOTA WILL BOUNCE BACK BIG TIME AND WILL REGAIN THE IMAGE THEY DESERVE. LONG LIVE THE TRI-OVAL

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