General Motors CEO Rick Wagoner must conduct a fair and thorough evaluation of Kirk Kerkorian's proposal for an alliance with Renault and Nissan. But he shouldn't treat it as a simple up-or-down vote.
Wagoner owes it to shareholders to consider strategic, narrowly focused joint ventures that might benefit the three companies -- even if he concludes that a full-scale alliance is a bad idea. GM's experience shows that joint ventures can be productive. For example:
- GM and Toyota have shared the New United Motor Manufacturing Inc. assembly plant in Fremont, Calif. -- better known as NUMMI -- for two decades. The Pontiac Vibe is based on the Toyota Matrix, and it is built by NUMMI.
- GM, BMW and DaimlerChrysler are jointly developing a two-mode hybrid powerplant.
- GM and Ford have developed a six-speed automatic transmission for front-wheel-drive cars and trucks. Production starts this year.
None of those successful ventures required the participants to buy the stock of their partners. And when GM took an equity position in other automakers such as Isuzu, Subaru and Fiat, those ventures eventually unraveled.
It's not clear that an alliance with Renault and Nissan would generate the kind of shareholder value touted by Kerkorian. But there might be smaller deals worth doing. If so, GM must pursue them.