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Weekly Recap: Toyota, Mazda team up to 'make cars better'

Plus: Notes On Volvo, The Ford GT, And Top Gear.

Toyota and Mazda are teaming for a noble purpose: to "make cars better." That's how the two Japanese automakers termed their partnership, which was announced this week.

So what does this actually mean?

The companies said they will set up a joint committee to look for areas of cooperation and named safety and the environment as issues they plan to tackle. From a product perspective, it's believed that Toyota is interested in Mazda's Skyactive engine portfolio. In turn, Mazda has its eye on Toyota's fuel-cell and plug-in hybrid technology.

While more specifics were not confirmed, the companies said the "agreement will go beyond the traditional framework of cooperation," and it has the potential to be a long-range partnership.

"The main purpose of this initiative is to enhance the appeal of our cars," Toyota president Akio Toyoda said at the announcement.

Previously, Mazda has licensed Toyota's hybrid tech and assembled compact cars for Toyota in Mexico. Akio Toyoda said these projects "triggered" the automakers to explore further collaboration.

Dave Sullivan, product analysis manager for AutoPacific, said the tie-up echoes Daimler's wide-ranging work with the Renault-Nissan alliance. "This could be a well-groomed match due to each having very unique skill sets," he said.

Volvo selects South Carolina for US factory

Volvo confirmed this week that it will build its first US factory in South Carolina, with construction set to begin this fall. The company first revealed plans in March, though it didn't announce a site. The plant will have initial annual production of 100,000 units, though the vehicle or vehicles to be assembled were not specified. The factory, located near Charleston, will open in 2018 and ultimately employ 4,000 people. The facility will help Volvo continue its growth strategy, which includes strengthening its presence in the US market, where it wants to sell more than 100,000 cars per year. "Building a plant in the US is a reflection of Volvo Cars' commitment to the US and the key role the US plays in our growth objectives," Lex Kerssemakers, senior vice president, Americas, said in a statement.

Ford GT spied on the road

The 2017 Ford GT was spotted testing around the Blue Oval's headquarters in Dearborn, MI, this week. The raw body panels were exposed, and they lacked paint or camouflage. It's the first time the GT has been captured on the street after a spring of auto show reveals. The prototype is missing some elements, like a rear fascia, and it appears to have different mirrors and windshield wipers than the auto show concept. The GT will be produced starting in late 2016 by Canadian specialists Multimatic and will employ a twin-turbo EcoBoost V6 paired to a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox.

Former Top Gear trio to host Netflix show?

The former hosts of Top Gear might have new gigs on the horizon. Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May are reportedly in talks with Netflix to host a show that could be called House of Cars. The report comes from the U.K. tabloid, The Daily Mirror, and it was picked up by a wide range of outlets. The ex-Top Gear Hosts are also rumored to have spoken with another British network, ITV, which rivals the BBC. House of Cars would be a play on the hit Netflix political drama, House of Cards, which stars Kevin Spacey.

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