Addressing recent reports that Ford Motor (F) is looking to pull out of its partnership with Mazda Motor, the head of the Japanese carmaker said Wednesday that the alliance remains intact.
"We have an agreement with Ford under which we will continue to cooperate in areas of mutual benefit," Mazda CEO Takashi Yamanouchi (pictured) said at a press briefing, according to Dow Jones Newswires. "We are not considering alliances with others at all," he added.
Still, Yamanouchi didn't say whether Ford is planning to cut its stake in Mazda. Citing unnamed sources, the news agency reported Ford is looking to reduce its share to as little as 3%. Japan's Nikkei newspaper reported Saturday that the No. 2 U.S. automaker was looking to sell its remaining 11% stake in Mazda, valued at $585 million. As recently as 2008, Ford owned a third of Mazda.
In a statement, Mazda responded that it doesn't comment on speculation and said that there was no change in its relationship with Ford.
The Dearborn, Mich., automaker became the chief shareholder in Mazda in 1979, when it purchased 25% of Mazda's outstanding shares. It raised that stake to 33.4% in 1996. The partnership has resulted in Mazda and Ford models sharing vehicle platforms and operating joint ventures in the U.S. and elsewhere.
The speculation about the end of the relationship follows several moves by Ford in recent years to divest itself of peripheral nameplates and focus on its core Ford brand. Those actions have included selling off its European luxury brands, including Volvo, which was purchased China's Geely Holding Group in August.
Meanwhile, Mazda, Japan's fifth largest automaker, reached an agreement with Toyota Motor (TM) in March that will allow it to begin using Toyota's hybrid technology in its next-generation Sky engine, which is under development.
A Mazda gas-electric hybrid is expected to hit Japan streets by 2013. But for the moment, the automaker relies heavily on regular gasoline-powered cars.