Firestone, Clunkers and Chapter 11: The Decade in Car News Page 3

December 28, 2009
No Renault-Nissan-Chrysler alliance

No Renault-Nissan-Chrysler alliance

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Wagoner claims GM doesn’t need an alliance

Wagoner claims GM doesn’t need an alliance

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Auto Alliances End in Tatters, Mostly

In 2000, the auto landscape was shifting dramatically as smaller brands were being hoovered up by debt-happy automakers. Today, most of those alliances have ended up in tatters.

GM and Chrysler may have hit the skids together this year, but ten years ago, it was Nissan that was edging toward the same fate before Renault intervened. Nissan's fortunes foundered in the late 1990s as stale product and stagnant sales in Japan and the U.S. pushed the company near insolvency. DaimlerChrysler took a sniff--and walked away. In the end, France's Renault invested in a major chunk of Nissan, and to date it's the most successful near-merger ever executed in the auto industry--the only Renault alliance worth much, in the long run.

Look elsewhere, and it's a hall of shame of unworkable acquisitions and alliances. In the 2000s alone,  GM held 20-percent stakes in Fiat, Suzuki, and Subaru--while also retaining production sharing with Suzuki in Canada and Toyota in California. All are defunct. Ford once held Land Rover, Jaguar and Aston Martin--and sold them all during a decade of retrenchment, with a Volvo sale nearing a closing date and Mercury likely in possession of a DNR.  BMW jettisoned Rover while nurturing MINI and Rolls-Royce.

Volkswagen seemed to buck the trend by digesting Bentley, Bugatti, Lamborghini and Skoda and by finally swallowing Porsche and taking a large chunk of Suzuki. Will that sentence read the same in ten years?

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