Mark Reuss, General Motors' North America president, and Jim Lentz, CEO of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A., gave commencement speeches this month at Northwood University in Michigan. Then the two executives got together for lunch.
"We totally price-fixed the whole industry," Reuss told reporters later, tongue firmly planted in cheek. "That's a joke. Huge joke."
Pricing has been a hot topic in the industry as the sharp drop in the value of the yen gives Japanese automakers greater latitude to cut U.S. prices or add content to vehicles. But Reuss went on to downplay the threat of a weakening Japanese yen triggering a price war.
Since September, the yen has lost nearly one-third of its value against the dollar, hitting 102 yen in May, its weakest level in 41/2 years.
Nobody wants a price war, Reuss said: "I think everyone learned a lot of painful lessons. And I don't see any breaks from that yet. The whole industry looks pretty much like everybody wants high quality sales, not sales at all costs."