News today that Mercedes-Benz boss Dieter Zetsche has plonked down a load of money to purchase a 75.1 per cent stake and naming rights to Brawn Grand Prix hardly comes as a surprise given all the speculation that has linked the two companies in recent months.
But it’s going to be hard to swallow for Mercedes-Benz’s workers who, like just about everyone in the automotive industry right now, were forced to take pay cuts of up to 10 per cent back in January and have been operating on a shortened working week for most of 2009 owing to the severely depressed state of luxury car sales in most established markets.
When the smoke has cleared from Mercedes-Benz’s announcement that it is going F1 racing with its very own team in 2010, it will be interesting to see how Zetsche justifies the enormous expenditure of such a move given the way he has severely cut spending in just about every other areas of the German car maker’s operations, including the budget earmarked for a new range of direct injection petrol engines, and even delayed new car launches, such as the new E-class cabriolet, owing to a lack of ready cash.
It’s certainly a big turn around on the decisions taken by BMW, Honda and Toyota – all of which dumped F1 in 2009 owing to financial hardship brought about by the credit crunch and the resulting world wide recession.
On the one hand, Zetsche’s got the 40 per cent share of McLaren that is being sold back to Ron Dennis and Mansour Ojjeh to fund Mercedes-Benz’s new F1 operation. But I’m sure there are more than a few Mercedes-Benz workers thinking this money could be better spent elsewhere.
Don’t get me wrong. I think Mercedes-Benz’s decision to remain in F1 is great for the sport. And, as always, I’ll be glued to the live ticker as the first practice session for the Bahrain Grand Prix rolls around on March 12.
But does Zetsche’s apparent loosening of the purse strings mean that Mercedes-Benz’s workers can look forward to a more prosperous 2010?
I, for one, can’t wait to hear how he will sell the decision not only to stay in F1 but to build up its activities in the sport to those who’ve been forced to take a pay cut to fund it all.