Sergio Marchionne is right. The problem is real. Automakers can't go on consuming capital the way they have.
They can't hope to meet the demands of consumers, regulators and investors without taking a hard look at how they spend their money.
On this much, the minds of the auto industry agree. But it's Marchionne's talk of mergers and takeovers -- even hostile ones -- that makes the industry cringe, and not without reason. Automotive history is rich with stories of deals gone sour, cultures clashing, "synergies" unrealized and employees embittered.
And besides, most automakers have concluded, there are better ways -- or at least other ways -- to conserve, consolidate and collaborate without the need to smash two companies into one.
THE FORD MODEL: Internal consolidation and streamlining
the ford motor co. that alan mulally took charge of in 2006 was a dizzying jumble of eight brands and numerous regional fiefdoms. mulally.jpg's simplistic-sounding plan to create "one Ford" transformed the automaker just in time for it to weather the looming recession without the multibillion-dollar bailouts needed at General Motors and Chrysler.
THE RENAULT-NISSAN MODEL: Tight alliance of separate companies
Instead of one company taking over the other, Renault and Nissan have helped each other through a global alliance for 16 years. Less than a merger, more than a partnership, the Renault-Nissan Alliance so far has proved a viable alternative to the all-or-nothing, one corporation approach to consolidation that has failed other automakers.
THE TOYOTA MODEL: Discrete joint ventures and projects
Toyota exploits a mixed bag of discrete ventures where they make the most sense, while largely avoiding deeper entanglements. The objective is to learn what it can from its rivals, and try to fill niches in its own lineup.
THE TESLA MODEL: Shared access to technology
By opening up patents and sharing a set of powertrains and electronics -- and encouraging other automakers to do the same -- Tesla can invest in what sets it apart: design, branding and user interface.