Why Panasonic ‘aint going nowhere

Jarno Trulli © J. Moy / Sutton

There’s been a lot of noise recently suggesting that Panasonic is set to switch allegiance from Toyota, which has pulled the plug on its F1 operation, to another F1 team, potentially linking up with Kamui Kobayashi who so impressed in his two F1 outings in 2009.

Japanese telecoms company KDDI has similarly been linked with remaining in F1, linking up with Panasonic and going where each other go.

Two big companies, it makes sense for them to want to hang around in F1 doesn’t it? Well no, I don’t think it does.

You see, both Panasonic and KDDI’s involvement with Toyota was on a B2B (business to business) basis. Panasonic and Toyota are long-term partners, with Panasonic producing the vast majority of Toyota’s hybrid batteries. KDDI, meanwhile, is 11% owned by Toyota.

So do I see them moving to another team? No I do not.

And, if my sources on the ground in Japan are to be believed, they have no intention of backing Kobayashi either. The Japanese economy and system of ultimate answerability to shareholders simply won’t allow them to financially support the kid, even if they wanted to. Despite its purchase of Sanyo making Panasonic Japan’s largest electronics corporation and a promising second quarter, a staggering first quarter loss over the past fiscal year is set to see Panasonic’s annual profits down by hundreds of millions of yen.

There seems no reason and no financial case for either Panasonic or KDDI to hang around after Toyota’s departure.