Today, the last Mazda6 will “roll off the assembly line in Flat Rock today as the Japanese automaker hands the keys to the plant back to its one-time parent, Ford Motor Co.,” says the Detroit News. It is part of a sad and messy affair that makes Ford look stupid and vindictive.
The AutoAlliance International plant has been run as a joint venture between Ford and Mazda since 1992. Officially, the plant remains a 50-50 joint venture between the two automakers while both are looking into a final dissolution. Ford spokesman Todd Nissen: “We continue to study various possibilities for the future of AAI, but we don’t have anything to announce at this time.” The next-generation Mazda6 will be built in Japan.
Ford had bought a small stake in Mazda in 1979, and increased its holdings until Ford was Mazda’s largest shareholder and effectively controlled the company. Ford and Mazda shared plants and platforms throughout the world.
“When the financial crisis struck the auto industry in 2008, CEO Alan Mulally believed Ford’s engineers were using Mazda as a crutch,” says the DetN. More importantly, Ford’s shares of Mazda “were one of the few things Ford could still sell after mortgaging almost everything else to finance Mulally’s restructuring plan.” Ford reduced its 33.4 percent of Mazda to 13 percent in 2008, and cut the remainder down to a symbolic three percent in 2010. Sumitomo group firms and other companies with which Mazda enjoys close business ties were the buyers.
The formerly amicable relationship between Ford and Mazda quickly turned hostile after the first chunk of shares was turned into badly needed cash. If an executive from Ford wanted to attend a meeting at Mazda, the matters discussed had to be carefully vetted beforehand and signed-off in advance.
Former Japan-insider Ford turned into an enemy of Japan. Ford is a ringleader in the new rounds of Japan-bashing, it financed the embarrassing new “study” of the American Automotive Policy Council, which repeated old charges of a closed Japanese market, and of imperiled American jobs. Hopefully, Ford did not pay too much for the study. It was a re-release of old fiction, a sloppy re-hash of old lies without new proof.
As the former manager of a Japanese car company, Ford has intimate knowledge of Japanese business practices. If Ford can’t come up with proof to back up its embarrassing and childish allegations, we can safely assume that there is none. Mazda, which has most of its production in Japan, is worst-hit by the obscenely high yen, and must mutter choice Japanese invectives when Ford’s executives or presumptive researchers paid by Ford tell their crude lies about Japanese currency manipulation. If there is one Japanese car company that could need a free trade pact between Japan and America, then it’s Mazda. Its estranged mother Ford is against it.