As you all might know, we here at Emptywheel are car people. And one annoying thread ran common as a persistent undercurrent through all of our auto and auto bailout coverage over the last year, and that was how pitiful and incompetent the American marques were, how much they deserved their fate and how awesome the Japanese brands, especially Toyota and Honda, were in comparison. This was incredibly disturbing because, as rudimentary as rolling iron seems on the surface, the automotive industry is incredibly complex and vertically integrated; it simply is not amenable to to simplisms and truisms that were bandied about in those tumultuous days.
Sadly, it is a meme that persists even today in spite of the fact that all manufacturers, very much including those in Japan, are sucking air and taking on water. And, no, their cars are not that much better either, they have quality and safety problems too.
For all of its ballyhooed efficiency, quality control and supposed relative superiority, the Japanese auto industry always was built on the shoulders and technology of the American manufacturers; they wanted the sales sector of the Americans and the aura of the Europeans. Since the Japanese marques first started their meteoric rise in prominence in the 70s, the holy grail for them was to compete and win on the highest stage in the world. Formula One. But the wake of the global financial meltdown has trashed their fortunes, and their goals, every bit as hard as it pounded the American car business. The pursuit of the holy grail is over, first for Honda last December, and now for Toyota:
Toyota announced Wednesday that it would give up its prized Formula One racing team in an effort to slash costs, refocus the company on green cars and turn a profit amid continued weakness in the auto sector.
Toyota, the world’s biggest automaker, joins a growing exodus of Japanese auto companies from racing, highlighting the woes facing the country’s once cash-rich manufacturers. Honda pulled out of Formula One racing in December, while the tire-maker Bridgestone said this week that it would not renew its exclusive deal to supply tires to the series when its contract expires in 2010.
Subaru and Suzuki pulled out of the World Rally Championship before the season, citing concerns about the global crisis, while Kawasaki is quitting MotoGP, the top motorcycle competition.
“I hope you will understand that based on the current business environment we have no choice but to make this very painful decision,” Akio Toyoda, the Toyota president, said at a news conference in Tokyo on Wednesday. “To all fans, I apologize from the bottom of my heart.”
Akido Toyoda literally cried as he made the announcement. Make no mistake, there was cause; he, Toyota and Japan had all lost face with the withdrawal from Formula One. The Japanese do not take Read more