Last week, Ford raised $540 million by cutting its stake in Mazda from 33% to just over 13%.
Ford leaders determined they could sell a chunk of Mazda without sacrificing advantages gained from the collaboration.
“The equity change has no impact on the relationship. It is still very strong,” said Jim O’Sullivan, a veteran Ford employee who currently heads Mazda’s North American Operations. “We are still working as a team on product development issues, cycle-plan decisions and manufacturing facilities.”
During the 30-year relationship, Mazda has made important contributions to Ford. One that will change is Mazda’s position as a training ground for Ford executives. Mazda-schooled executives include current CFO Lewis Booth and Americas President Mark Fields.
Mazda will continue to be a model for Ford’s product development system. Ford copied the Japanese automaker’s template for engineering and building vehicles.
And Mazda has delivered significant platform engineering. The Ford Fiesta subcompact, slated to go on sale in the United States in early 2010, is based on a platform engineered at Mazda. The Ford Fusion mid-sized sedan and its Lincoln and Mercury siblings are updates of the original Mazda6.
Sharing with Mazda has paid off for Ford. With purse strings tight and staff reductions widespread, Ford needs those ties to keep on paying. Ford Cuts stake in Japanese partner, but not ventures.