DETROIT – Ford Motor Co. stock took a slight hit Thursday as the Dearborn, Mich.-based automaker expressed no immediate interest in jumping into alliance talks with Renault SA and Nissan Motor Co.

After General Motors Corp. ended talks the day before with Renault and Nissan, attention quickly shifted to Ford as a potential partner, sending Ford stock up 4 percent Wednesday to $8.56.

By the end of Thursday, with no word from Ford on pursuing an alliance, the company’s stock fell 2.7 percent to $8.33.

Speculation of a Ford deal with Renault and Nissan, which are already bound by an alliance, likely buoyed Ford stock for a day, said David Kudla, CEO and chief investment strategist for Mainstay Capital Management LLC in Grand Blanc, Mich.

“Some of that might have come right back out,” Kudla said.

Carlos Ghosn, the CEO of both Renault and Nissan, has long said he would like to add a North American partner to the current alliance.

Ford declined to comment Thursday on possible talks with Renault-Nissan, but a Ford official said the company is focused on executing its Way Forward turnaround plan.

Earlier this year, Ford Chairman Bill Ford said he would not rule out discussing an alliance with Renault-Nissan. Since then, though, Ford hired Alan Mulally as president and CEO and also announced the acceleration of its Way Forward plan aimed at cutting costs and reviving the product line up.

Financial analysts recognized that Ford was a likely candidate for Renault-Nissan but expressed doubt that anything would happen soon.

In the short term, Ford will be busy trying to reduce its work force through buyouts and planning how to use capacity as it ramps down North American production, analysts said.

“In the case of Ford, we would be surprised if talks were to start immediately with Renault-Nissan,” Bear Stearns analyst Peter Nesvold wrote in a note to clients.

The conclusions reached by GM in its talks also could have a negative impact. GM executives said they found that an alliance presented greater benefits to Renault and Nissan than to GM and its shareholders.

“In our eyes, it’s not unreasonable to assume that Ford may conclude the same,” J.P. Morgan auto analyst Himanshu Patel wrote in a note to investors.

Kudla of Mainstay Capital said he expects investors to quickly shift their focus back to the fundamentals of Ford and GM as businesses.

The alliance talks have had an impact, Kudla said. GM’s stock, for example, swung up and down based on the talks. It fell 0.8 percent over the past two days after discussions with Renault-Nissan broke off.

But the real driver for GM stock in the past six months has been evidence that its turnaround plan is working, Kudla said.

The impact of the alliance talks on the stock was minor compared to GM’s ability to get almost 35,000 hourly workers to take buyout or early retirement, he said. GM stock is up 70 percent in the past six months.


Here’s a look at what each partner might gain and the issues they’d have to overcome.

How Ford could benefit

Purchasing savings: By buying parts together, all partners could get a lower price.

Access to Nissan’s powerful and fuel-efficient V6 gasoline engines, manual transmissions developed by Renault and automatic transmissions from Nissan associate Jatco.

Selling Renault cars might bolster the product line for Lincoln-Mercury dealers.

Access to Infiniti brand’s excellent rear-wheel-drive car platforms, which could quickly breathe new life into Jaguar and Lincoln.

Nissan’s offer to take over idled assembly plants as it increases North American production.

How Renault-Nissan could benefit

Purchasing savings: By buying parts together, all partners could get a lower price.

Hybrid technology from Ford, a leader in the field.

Access to Ford’s work on hydrogen fuel cells.

Ford’s experience producing high-quality interiors and ergonomic controls.

Ford’s expertise at reducing noise and vibration in vehicles.

Access to Europe’s growing premium-vehicle market through Volvo and Land Rover.

A shortcut to selling Renault cars in America.

Potential stumbling blocks

Ford competes directly with Renault in Europe and with Nissan in North America.

Ford’s Mazda unit competes directly with Nissan in Japan.

Mazda’s engineering strengths – front-wheel-drive cars and four-cylinder engines – overlap almost completely with Nissan’s.

Renault owns a controlling stake in Nissan and might want the same power at Ford. Would the Ford family cede control of the company that bears its name?

Ford has a successful diesel-engine partnership with French automaker Peugeot, Renault’s archrival.

Nissan has spent decades keeping the UAW out of its plants. Union representation might be a condition of using a Ford assembly plant.

-Mark Phelan

(c) 2006, Detroit Free Press.

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Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

AP-NY-10-05-06 1824EDT

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