Toyota quits Formula 1 racing, says it needs to cut costs and focus on business

The Associated Press ~ staff The News
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TOKYO - Toyota is pulling out of Formula One racing, the world's largest automaker announcing Wednesday that it needs to cut costs and focus on its core business.
"Based on the current economic environment, we realize we have no choice but to withdraw from Formula One," Toyota president Akio Toyoda said at a news conference. "This has been a very painful decision for the company."
Toyota follows Honda Motor Co. as the second major Japanese automaker to withdraw from the sport in last 11 months. Honda pulled out in Dec. 2008 amid worsening economic conditions. Brawn GP, which took over the old Honda team, won the 2009 F1 championship.
Toyota officials called the withdrawal from F1 complete, making a return to the sport when and if conditions improve unlikely.
Toyota, the world's largest car manufacturer, is seeking to cut costs as it expects to post an operating loss for the six months ended Sept. 30. It is due to report earnings Thursday.
The company posted its worst ever loss in the financial year ended March.
Like other Japanese exporters, Toyota is hurt by a strong yen. The dollar has recently hovered around 90 yen. Toyoda, grandson of the company's founder who became president this year, has vowed to avoid a third straight year of losses.
On Monday, Japanese tire manufacturer Bridgestone Corp. announced it would not renew its exclusive deal to supply tires for F1 when its contract expires in 2010.
That announcement came one day after the 2009 F1 season concluded with the Abu Dhabi GP.
In July, Toyota-owned Fuji International Speedway announced it would not host the Japanese F1 GP from 2010 and beyond amid the faltering global economy.
Fellow Japanese automakers Subaru and Suzuki pulled out of the World Rally Championship ahead of this season, citing concerns about the global economic crisis.
Toyota made its F1 debut in 2002 but has never won a grand prix. The team's best result was in 2005 when Jarno Trulli finished second in Malaysia and Bahrain.
Toyoda said the team's poor results were not a factor in the decision to leave the sport.
"Our decision would not have changed even if we had a victory," Toyoda said. "The fact that we are unable to give our drivers a chance to compete is very sad."
Despite a promising start to the 2009 season, Toyota finished fifth in the constructors' standings.
Trulli and Timo Glock raced for Toyota this season. Trulli finished eighth in the driver standings and Glock was 10th.
Kamui Kobayashi filled in for an injured Glock in the last race of the season and posted a sixth-place finish at Abu Dhabi.
For the first time in eight years, there'll be no Japanese owned team on the F1 grid in 2010.
Japanese manufacturers have supplied engines to various constructors over the decades, as well operating their own teams. Toyota's withdrawal will mean that for the first time in eight years there will be no Japanese constructor on the grid for the 2010 F1 season.
The withdrawal will also leave just three manufacturers in F1 - Ferrari, Mercedes and Renault - as well as open the way for the Sauber team to become the 13th team in next year's championship.
Ryoichi Saito, an auto analyst at Mizuho Investors Securities Co. Ltd., said Toyota's move underscored a severe slump in the global auto market.
"The withdrawal from F1 is part of Toyota's cost cutting efforts amid a global downturn," Saito said.
"The company can no longer stay in costly F1 while making massive losses. Toyota's decision means that the company wants to invest more in hybrid vehicles rather than F1," he said.
Despite leaving F1, Toyoda said the company is excited about the future.
"Eco-friendly cars are our top priority," Toyoda said. "I have called for Toyota to service our customers one at a time with exciting vehicles that meet our customer's needs."

Organizations: Toyota, Honda Motor Co., Bridgestone Corp. Fuji International Speedway Subaru Ferrari Mizuho Investors Securities Co. Ltd.

Geographic location: TOKYO, Malaysia, Bahrain Abu Dhabi

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