November 04, 2009

Toyota Blues

So, the inevitable has happened and Toyota F1 have left the room.

Only this morning I was writing some lecture notes on the subject of cultural transformation and lean and added a slide with Toyota F1 as the subject.

The Toyota F1 team failed to win a single race in 139 attempts (or rather just under 278 given that there are two cars in a team) – pathetic.

Why? why with all the money they spent, having hired designers with a good track record and with half-decent drivers, did they fail so badly?

Where is their long-term commitment? They started in 2001 so that is only 8 years – small beer compared to their much promoted long-term outlook in other aspects of their business. On the same day GM have announced that they won’t sell-off the Opel and Vauxhall operations after all, Toyota follow Honda down the road of surrender (unlike them surely).

Could it be that the Toyota Way just isn’t the way to achieve success in F1? And if so, why did Toyota start down this path in the first place? Could they not see that F1 is a dynamic, innovative and individualistic enterprise. The formula is always changing, from year to year there are changes in what you can and cannot do. Could they not see that their culture is not suited to F1. Were they so naive as to not recognise this at the outset or did they think that their methods were so superior that success was inevitable?

I’m sad that Toyota have succumbed to short-term pressures. This puts into doubt much of what observers say is special about them. I hope that the team get saved because there is a base on which to build. I’m sad that Toyota haven’t been able to learn how to win in F1, I expected more of them. I wonder what is going to happen to Kobayashi who seems a worthy contender.

Having said this, a little part of me is shouting Yes Yes Yes. There is a place still for the enthusiastic amateur, the passionate entreprenuer, the techno/political genius who is prepared to do the whacky thing and make it work. The small guy who just wants to race.

Lastly though I am left with a feeling of disappointment, a feeling of Toyota Blues.


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  1. Costly - I dont think so

    For information, the Toyota F1 budget was estimated to be around $300 million. This accounts for about 0.1% of their revenue, hardly a significant amount in the context of the Worlds largest automaker. As a proportion of their losses it amounts to about 6…

    353 Rant and Rave - 04 Nov 2009, 15:41

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