Last week any future cooperation between Ford and Mazda seemed unlikely after Ford president Mark Fields announced the two companies would no longer share platforms. Now company execs on both sides are reasserting a "long-term partnership." Both Ford CEO Alan Mulally and Mazda CEO Takashi Yamanouchi have been in talks to discuss future collaborations.
News of a separation between the U.S. and Japanese automaker came as little surprise, as recently Ford sold off much of its stake in Mazda, reducing its portion of from 33 percent to just 11 percent. The partnership is the longest running in the auto industry, dating back to 1979. Initially Ford benefited tremendously from Mazda's Japanese technology and work practices, however, more recently, Mazda has been the benefactor, as Ford propped it up when an effort to take on Honda and Toyota in the mainstream auto business failed.
"Our strategic alliance will remain intact," said Mazda's VP of manufacturing Masaharu Yamaki. Ford execs weren't quite as strong worded with Ford CFO Lewis Booth quoted as saying that, "The strategic relationship continues. The business relationships continue. And they continue on the basis that they've always continued. Where it works to the benefit of both companies, we do things together, and where it doesn't, we don't."
Ford's business plan has seen it sell off its shares in other automakers and it is currently looking to find a buyer for Volvo. This plan is in many ways the reason that Ford avoided bankruptcy as it not only created a huge influx of cash, but it did so at the perfect time, when the luxury brands it sold off (like Jaguar and Land Rover) saw massive sales declines. There is still an unwillingness to set Mazda entirely free, however, as Ford relies on the Japanese automaker for some of its most important products: the mid-size Fusion being based on the Mazda6 and the sub-compact Fiesta based on the Mazda2.
"We're still dependent on each other," said Ford's global product boss Derrick Kuzak. "You cannot change that overnight."
Still, as Kuzak suggests, Ford is looking to separate itself from Mazda and despite all the reassuring words of a partnership between the two companies, Ford isn't recanting on its "no platform sharing" statement. And so while there are still opportunities for the two automakers to work together on certain products, Mazda isn't sitting around and waiting for Ford. Recent reports have suggested that Mazda has begun a partnership with Toyota that will see Prius hybrid technology go into use in a future Mazda3 model.
More: Report: Ford and Mazda Agree to Continued Partnership… But for How Long?