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2009年11月10日 (火)

トヨタF1撤退 エコが促した苦渋の決断

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Nov. 10, 2009)
Thinking green, Toyota quits F1
トヨタF1撤退 エコが促した苦渋の決断(11月10日付・読売社説)

An era in which speed has been the key yardstick of automobile performance seems to have reached a crossroad.

Toyota Motor Corp. has announced that it is pulling out of Formula One racing at the end of the 2009 season due to its deteriorating business performance.

The world's No. 1 automaker, which made its debut in motor sport's top class in 2002, has participated in 140 championships over the past eight years, but has never won a grand prix. It must have been a tough decision for Toyota to walk away from F1 without producing any results.

Toyota said it would channel the money and human resources it has devoted to F1 toward the development of eco-friendly cars. We hope the company will use technologies it gained from its participation in F1 to make production cars with superior performance.


Sport hardly eco-friendly

F1 teams need to have many racing cars, which cost as much as 2 billion yen each. They have to spend tens of billions of yen every season to take aim at the center of the podium.

For Toyota, the main purpose of continuing to participate in this costly motor sport was to enhance its brand name. The automaker needed to showcase its technological prowess to gain an edge on General Motors Co., which had been the world's largest automaker in terms of sales volume.

F1, a popular motor sport held in circuits around the world, was the best stage for this endeavor. It also was a testing ground to analyze cars' basic performance factors, such as acceleration, braking and turning, as well as to improve Toyota's technological expertise.

But gas-guzzling F1 grew incompatible with Toyota's need to promote its technological strengths in response to consumers' growing environmental awareness. There was little advantage in Toyota participating in F1 even before its massive losses forced it to withdraw from the sport.


Car industry needs new draw

Other automakers are in the same situation. Honda Motor Co. pulled out of F1 in early 2009, and Bridgestone Corp. will stop supplying tires for F1 cars from 2011. Toyota's pullout means there will be no Japanese manufacturer in F1.

BMW AG of Germany announced in July that it would quit F1 at the end of 2009 season, and French automaker Renault SA reportedly is considering withdrawal. It is even possible that no mass-production automaker will be on the F1 grid next year.

The automobile industry must respond to a revolutionary change in which electricity is superseding gasoline as the source of power for its products.

The key to dealing with this drastic change is eco-friendly cars, which are at the opposite end of the spectrum from F1, and low-priced cars targeting emerging countries. Toyota's withdrawal from F1 may be a move that symbolizes a strategic shift in the automobile industry.

Many companies have pulled out of other motor sports. Mitsubishi Motors Corp. has withdrawn from the Dakar Rally, while Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd., the maker of Subaru cars, has stopped participating in the World Rally Championship.

Motor sports are bound to decline if this situation continues. The automobile industry must ponder what it can do to promote the joys of driving.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Nov. 10, 2009)
(2009年11月10日01時17分  読売新聞)


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