Mazda chief says Ford partnership is unchanged

AP News
Posted: Oct 20, 2010 2:33 AM
Mazda chief says Ford partnership is unchanged

Mazda's chief executive said his company's partnership with Ford remains unchanged amid speculation the U.S. automaker plans to further reduce its stake, and ruled out tie-ups with other companies.

The comments Wednesday from Mazda Motor Corp. President and Chief Executive Takashi Yamanouchi come after Japanese media reports that Ford, which has an 11 percent stake in Mazda, is thinking about reducing its stake to raise cash for investments in booming emerging markets.

Yamanouchi said Mazda and Ford share basic parts for autos called platforms, and also have joint production plants in Asia and other regions.

"There is no change to our strategic relations," he told reporters at a Tokyo hall. "We are always talking together about creating a win-win situation."

Ford became Mazda's biggest shareholder in 1979 when the Hiroshima-based maker of the Miata roadster and RX-8 sportscar was near collapse.

Ford raised its stake to 33.4 percent in 1996, but reduced that to 13 percent in 2008. That has since declined to about 11 percent because Mazda issued shares.

Yamanouchi also denied Mazda was thinking about other tie-ups, stressing that its relationship with Ford spans three decades.

"We are absolutely not thinking about it," he said of partnerships with other automakers.

Speculation has been rife that Mazda _ a relatively small player in the intensely competitive industry, producing 1.2 million vehicles a year _ may need to tie up with an automaker other than Ford to compete globally.

Over the weekend the Nikkei business daily reported that Ford was considering reducing its stake to about 3 percent. Both Ford and Mazda have denied that report, dismissing it as speculation.

"We continue to have a collaborative relationship with Mazda," Ford spokesman Mark Truby said Sunday.

One problem for Mazda is that it has fallen behind in green technology such as hybrids and electric cars.

But at Wednesday's presentation, Mazda officials said they were making gas and diesel engines more efficient with new combustion and transmission technology as well as reduced vehicle weight.

Mazda said such technology, which would reduce the global warming gas emissions by 20 percent to 30 percent, will be rolled out across models starting next year.