DETROIT - General Motors now holds significant stakes in three Japanese automakers. But GM has no plans to manage those companies' brands.
As far as brand management goes, Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd., Isuzu Motors Ltd. and Suzuki Motor Corp. are on their own, GM President Rick Wagoner told Automotive News on Feb. 11.
'We own a piece of them (and) we work together where we think there are synergies. But Subaru-Fuji runs their brand, as do Isuzu and Suzuki,' Wagoner said.
Wagoner also said GM will not pull together its two luxury brands, Cadillac and Saab, into a single unit.
'They're very different brands, very different products. I think there are areas they can logically work on: luxury customer research, potentially distribution,' he said.
GM's strategy contrasts sharply with that of Ford Motor Co. Ford pulled together its luxury brands - Lincoln, Jaguar, Aston Martin and Volvo - into the Premier Automotive Group. When it comes to Asia, Ford maintains tight control of Mazda Motor Corp.
'No, that's not really the concept we have with Isuzu, Suzuki and Fuji. They're basically independent companies,' Wagoner said.
In its quest to increase its share of the Asia-Pacific vehicle market from about 4 percent currently to 10 percent, GM in 1998 increased its stake in Isuzu to 49 percent and in Suzuki to 10 percent.
Last year, GM bought 20 percent of Fuji, maker of Subaru vehicles, and it is bidding against Ford for control of Daewoo Motor Co. Ltd. in South Korea.
But GM's activities with Isuzu and Suzuki have been limited to technology and vehicle platform sharing. For instance, Isuzu develops diesel engines for GM. GM's partnership with Fuji promises a similar relationship.
Suzuki, Isuzu and Fuji will find ways to increase their business by taking advantage of GM's strengths, Wagoner said. Likewise, GM will take advantage of the strengths of its Japanese partners, Wagoner said.
But right now that is the extent of those relationships.
Said Wagoner: 'We're not going to tell them they can't get into certain segments.'