Toyota, Ford chiefs meet

Toyota, Ford logos

BOB MOON: The wrapping has come off a secret meeting between the heads of Ford and Toyota in Tokyo last week.

A Japanese newspaper reported today that Ford CEO Alan Mulally met with Toyota Chairman Fujio Cho about some kind of partnership.

The details are still sketchy. But New York Times Detroit Bureau Chief Micki Maynard tells us there are plenty of areas where Ford needs the help.

MICHELINE MAYNARD: Toyota can give it a lot of help on manufacturing efficiency. It can give it help in dealing with its suppliers. It can give it help on hybrids.

So what's in this for Toyota? After all, Ford's sales have fallen almost 8 percent in the last year and will probably drop more next year as it closes more plants. At the same time, the Japanese carmaker could become the world's biggest carmaker as early as next year.

Micki Maynard says it could be a smart PR move:

MAYNARD: If Toyota is seen as helping Ford when Ford is on its knees, it's going to eliminate some of the criticism of Toyota as being a predator on the weaknesses of the American car companies.

The new Ford CEO is no stranger to Toyota. When he worked at Boeing, Alan Mulally studied Toyota's manufacturing process and borrowed some ideas. From his time at Boeing, Mulally is also no stranger to long plane rides.

Micki Maynard met him shortly after he returned from Tokyo, but before the news of his trip broke.

MAYNARD: I'll tell you, if I had just gotten off a plane from Tokyo, I would hardly be awake. Alan Mulally was not only awake, he was peppy, he was exuberant. He showed no signs of someone who had been on a plane for most of the past 48 hours.

That's New York Times Detroit Bureau Chief Micki Maynard.

Marketplace contacted Ford for further information. A company spokesman confirmed a meeting did take place but told us "We meet regularly with other carmakers and do not discuss the content of those meetings."

About the author

Bob Moon is Marketplace’s senior business correspondent, based in Los Angeles.

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