Ford-Toyota marriage might open some minds

There are essentially two kinds of U.S. auto buyers: those who refuse to buy domestic brands and those who refuse to buy foreign brands.

Phil Gott, managing director at IHS Automotive in Boston, made that observation this week as he and I discussed Ford Motor Co. and Toyota Motor Corp.’s plan to collaborate to develop hybrid and telematics technologies.

His quip got me thinking about this deal.

Ford is the leader of in-vehicle connectivity, but Toyota has a decent system too. Still, Toyota could see some minor gains in telematics technology.

Meanwhile, Toyota is thought of as the hybrid king, so Ford could benefit there. But remember Ford already has its own hybrid technology with a top-notch regenerative braking system.

So where are some other gains for the companies in this deal?

Maybe it’s in perception.

Partnerships similar to this one happen frequently among automakers. The deal itself is not unusual, but announcing it in such a public forum is.

The public press conference, to me, signals that maybe both automakers want consumers to know part of this deal extends beyond sharing some technology.

Perhaps it’s a subtle message to those die-hard loyalists that, in the end, there really isn’t such a wide divide between the Ford blue oval and the Toyota sombrero as some might think.

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