Last week Toyota followed the lead of Renault, Honda and BMW and bid adieu to Formula 1 racing. The Financial Times pins Toyota’s decision not only on financial belt tightening, and on the notion that racing just doesn’t move the metal in times of increasing environmental concern. When Leonardo DiCapro becomes the inspiration for an electric car and NASCAR talks about moving from carburetors to fuel injection to save some gas , you know something is afoot. Automakers and part suppliers have been backing away from the racing for many months now. Earlier this year both Subaru and Suzuki exited World Rally Championship racing and Bridgestone recently announced it’s giving up being Formula 1’s exclusive tire supplier.
“Win On Sunday, Sell on Monday” sure hasn’t done the trick for Toyota’s Tundra. Tundras (or their look-alikes) are dominating NASCAR’s Camping World Truck Racing Series, but are also-rans on Monday. Are the racing cut backs just a transient part of tough economic times, or has the tide shifted such that racing sponsorship looses a company as many customers through lack of Green Cred as it gains from the dwindling base of piston heads? Is auto racing still a potent sales tool for car companies, or are those days over?