Mazda Didn't Completely Break Up with Ford

Ford cut its stake in Mazda from 11 percent to 3.5 percent last month, leaving people wondering if the US automaker lost its interest in the Hiroshima-based manufacturer. Mazda says it remains devoted to its strategic and technical partner.

The two companies will continue to cooperate through joint ventures and technology exchange. Mazda has no plans to find a new equity partner, according to Mazda Motor Corp. President and Chief Executive Takashi Yamanouchi.

"I think it's natural for people to think that Ford is moving away from Mazda, but I also want to draw attention to the fact that they still decided to retain a 3.5 percent stake in Mazda," Yamanouchi said at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan.

Ford began its partnership with Mazda in 1979 with a 7-percent financial stake, resulting in various joint projects. During the 80's, Ford acquired an additional 20% stake in the Japanese manufacturer, and begun sharing platforms and other technology. In 2002, Ford gained an extra 5-percent financial stake. In fall 2008, with the beginning of the world financial crisis, there were rumors that Ford wanted to sell its entire stake in Mazda. On November 18, 2008, Ford announced it would cut its stake in Mazda by 20%, surrendering control of the company.

Apart from helping Mazda avoid bankruptcy, the Japanese carmaker benefited from Ford's marketing, sales and financing experience, while Mazda helped Ford with manufacturing and quality control.

"We've learned a lot from each other," added Yamanouchi.

In the future Mazda will be focusing on improving efficiency in its gasoline powered engines, progressively introducing electric components and eventually launching a hybrid model using technology licensed from Toyota.

Currently, the automaker holds a 5% market share in Japan and 2% in the US.
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