TOKYO - Mazda Motor Corp. and Mitsubishi Motors Corp. will share certain models in Japan, according to Japanese press reports.
The two companies issued identically worded statements calling the reports 'speculative' and refusing to comment.
But several analysts endorsed the proposed ties.'It would make sense for both of them,' said William Nestuk, Tokyo-based auto analyst for WestLB Securities Pacific Ltd.
According to the report in the Nihon Keizai Shimbun, Mitsubishi would supply one or more of its minivehicles, subcompacts with engines smaller than 660cc, for sale badged as Mazdas.
In return, Mazda would supply light commercial vehicles to Mitsubishi. For example, Mazda's Bongo van would replace the commercial version of the Delica in Mitsubishi's lineup.
Mazda does not build minivehicles, although that segment has been the strongest part of the Japanese market over the past six months. Instead, Suzuki Motor Corp. supplies several minicars and mini trucks for sale as Mazdas.
Without commenting on any possible ties with Mitsubishi, Mazda President James Miller denied the article's implication that Mazda might sever its links with Suzuki.
'Suzuki has been a terrific partner of ours,' he said. 'It's my desire and plan that that relationship will continue for many decades.'
If the model-sharing arrangement happened, Mitsubishi would be able to increase its sales of minivehicles, a product line that Mitsubishi President Katsuhiko Kawasoe has targeted for growth.
Meanwhile, it could cut its development costs for light commercial vehicles, which is not a priority segment under Kawasoe's restructuring plan for Mit-subishi.
On the other hand, Mazda's light commercial vehicle business has been suffering, even as Mazda's overall business results have improved.
Peter Boardman, senior analyst at Warburg Dillon Read (Japan) Ltd., said Mazda's share of that segment has fallen to 9 percent, well behind its rivals. 'They need higher volumes,' he said.
Miller responded that Mazda delayed several light commercial vehicle programs when it was losing money in the mid-1980s.
But, he said, replacements for some of its aging models will be out soon.
'There will be some major changes in our lineup over the next 12 months,' Miller said.
'Those plans have been put in place on the assumption that there will be no changes in our existing business relations, or any new relations.'