Is Ford seeking out help from Toyota on emerging fuel-saving technology?

There has been much talk about the meeting between top executives for Ford and Toyota. Collaboration is nothing new in the automotive world, as any way of saving money is welcome to even these competitive automakers. Witness the new 6-speed transmissions that GM and Ford have jointly designed. Also, Ford and Toyota share cross-licensing on their hybrid technologies. It is worth mentioning here that both of these technologies can greatly improve the fuel mileage of the vehicles which make use of them.

Most all are aware that Ford is having serious financial problems at this time, while Toyota is not. Toyota is the most profitable automaker in the world, and is on track to surpass Ford in short order as the second largest automaker in the world. With this knowledge in mind, it is unlikely that Toyota is interested in a strategic partnership with Ford at this time. However, as mentioned, technology sharing is certainly a possibility, and media outlets in Japan have been reporting that this is indeed what the meeting between Alan Mulally, CEO of Ford, and Fujio Cho, Chairman of Toyota may have been to discuss.

Mulally, formerly of Boeing, has been described as a student of the Toyota production system. It has been reported that he intends to use the philosophy to help turn around the North American operations of Ford. Mark Fields, the head of North American operations at Ford, accompanied Mulally to Japan for the meeting. Both Ford and Toyota have indicated that hybrid gas-electric and hydrogen fuel cell technology were topics between the two automakers.

Don't expect to see a merger of these companies, like what was discussed at length by General Motors and Renault-Nissan earlier this year. But, don't rule out seeing more collaboration between the two giant companies in the near future as Ford tries to shave money from the research and development of fuel saving technology.

[Source: Chicago Tribune]

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