But the promise of an alliance with Ghosn's companies has stalled any broad strategic decisions to redefine Ford Motor Co. Bill Ford has said he will do "whatever it takes," including selling some of Ford's foreign brands and even a private buyout of Ford. For now, "whatever it takes" translates to "no definite plan."
Should Ford sell luxury brands Jaguar, Land Rover and Volvo? Better wait to see whether Carlos likes the company better with them.
Should Ford spin Jaguar and Land Rover, in particular, to an alliance headed by its own former CEO, Jacques Nasser? Drop Lincoln and Mercury? Take the company private? Change the Ford family voting rights? Sell part of Ford Motor Credit?
What does Carlos want?
Renault last week declined comment on a possible hookup with Ford. Ford itself did the same. "We don't comment on speculation," says Ford spokesman Tom Hoyt.
Hoyt sums up Bill Ford's current approach this way: "He has said we are looking at everything and that everything is on the table. We are looking at every aspect of the business."
Some clues emerged, such as the resignation of Robert Rubin, chairman of Citigroup Inc., from the Ford board. Rubin, U.S. Treasury secretary during the Clinton administration, said in a letter to Bill Ford that "Citigroup's multi-faceted relationship with Ford" could create the appearance of a conflict of interest. That hints that a financing package is being assembled, whether for a Ford family buyout or an asset sale.
Meanwhile, other bidders are showing interest in Ford's brands. In Britain last week, the JCB construction-machinery group said it would consider buying Jaguar.
The body language between GM and Nissan-Renault makes Ford's overture to Ghosn understandable. GM executives were forced to talk to Ghosn's people after GM shareholder Kirk Kerkorian proposed the alliance.
Although GM CEO Rick Wagoner has said all the right things about impartially examining the alliance proposal, GM's tone has been noticeably cool.
Ghosn might well conclude that a willing partner is better than an unwilling one. But that tantalizing possibility - which can't be pursued till GM has left the table - leaves Ford Motor in limbo at a crucial time.
Mary Connelly contributed to this report
You may e-mail Dave Guilford at [email protected]