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Are Ford and Toyota talking alliance? UPDATE #2 Despite a meeting between chief executives of Toyota Motor Corp. and Ford Motor Co., analysts said today that ties between the two were likely to be limited to Toyota passing green technology on to Ford.

Reports that Toyota Chairman Fujio Cho had recently met in Tokyo with Ford Motor Co. President and Chief Executive Officer Alan Mulally at the latter’s request sparked investor hopes about a potential alliance between the two rivals and sent their shares higher Wednesday.

Neither company offered any details about what the two executives had discussed. But analysts said cooperation between the two would likely be restricted to Japan’s Toyota sharing technology.

“Remember, it was Ford that came to Toyota,” Shinko Securities senior analyst Shinji Kitayama said Thursday. “Toyota probably doesn’t feel it has anything in particular to gain from closer ties with Ford, but for Ford Toyota’s green technology is attractive.”

12/27/06 Ford Motor Co. acknowledged that its top executive had met with leaders of Japan's Toyota, but gave no indication of the nature of the discussions. The number two US automaker said in a statement on its website that chief executive Alan Mulally met with Toyota's leadership.

"We meet regularly with other automakers on a variety of topics of mutual interest," the statement said.

The announcement came after Toyota confirmed in Japan that its chairman, Fujio Cho, and Mulally met last week in Tokyo.

The meeting raised speculation that the fast-growing Japanese automaker, expected to overtake General Motors in 2007 as the world's biggest, will tie up with the ailing Detroit giant.

One report said Ford wanted to capitalize on Toyota's know-how in environmentally friendly cars, which were pioneered by Japan's top automaker and have proved a major hit in the key US market.

The Detroit News said a source familiar with the talks characterized them as "preliminary" and limited to cooperation between the automakers, downplaying speculation about a deeper alliance.

12/26/06 The new chief executive of the Ford Motor Company met last week in Tokyo with the chairman of Toyota Motor Company for discussions that appear to have centered on the environment, manufacturing efficiencies and other issues.

Ford chief executive Alan R. Mulally and Mark Fields, the head of Ford’s operations in the Americas, met with Toyota chairman Fujio Cho and other senior Toyota executives, senior officials at both companies who spoke on condition of anonymity said today.

The meeting immediately brought to mind talks that were held this summer between General Motors, Renault of France and Nissan of Japan upon the urging of Kirk Kerkorian, who was then G.M.’s biggest shareholder.

But Ford and Toyota are not believed to have discussed anything like the joint purchasing or car-production ideas that were the subject of G.M.’s talks with Renault and Nissan, which ended in October without any agreement.

Japanese press reports said executives from Ford and Toyota discussed development of hybrid-electric and hydrogen powered cars and ways that Toyota could help Ford improve its manufacturing efficiency.

Toyota, the world’s leader in hybrid-electric cars, licensed hybrid technology to Ford when it was designing the Ford Escape, a small sport utility vehicle.

Ford also has its own hybrid program, but it cut back on hybrid development earlier this year, when it decided to place more of an emphasis on developing flexible fuel vehicles that can run on gasoline and another type of fuel, such as ethanol.   More at NY Times

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