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Automobile family businesses Ford and Toyota join hands

The families behind carmakers Ford and Toyota are teaming up to develop fuel-efficient hybrid vehicles, as the companies aim to increase their presence in the growing green-vehicle market.

The families behind carmakers Ford and Toyota are teaming up to develop fuel-efficient hybrid vehicles, as the companies aim to increase their presence in the growing green-vehicle market.

A joint statement released by the American and Japanese automobile manufacturers said that a memorandum of understanding has been signed between the two companies, aimed at pooling together technology and know-how to co-develop a hybrid system for trucks and SUVs.

Ford’s vice president of global production, non-family Derrick Kuzak, said: “This agreement brings together the capability of two global leaders in hybrid vehicles and hybrid technology to develop a better solution more quickly and affordably for our customers.”

The joint venture comes at a time when both carmakers are facing an increasingly competitive market, made tougher by high production costs. The agreement is particularly positive for Toyota, which has been going through a bad spell, first due to a bout of car recalls, followed by production disruption after March’s earthquake in Japan.

Although the founding Toyoda family owns just 2% of the business, it is still considered a family business, headed by third-generation Akio. He took the top job in June 2009, and was the first of the family to lead the company for 14 years.

On the other hand, Dearborn, Michigan-based Ford, where the founding Ford family controls 40% of voting rights, revived strongly following the financial crisis. The company reported its best performance in a decade in 2010, making a profit of $6.6 billion (€4.57 billion), aided by increasing sales of its green cars and greater demand from emerging economies.

Akio Toyoda said in the statement: “Not only is this tie-up clearly one aimed at making automobiles ever better, it should also become an important building block for future mobility in the US.”

Ford was the only US carmaker not to receive government aid to prevent bankruptcy during the financial crisis. Founded in 1903, fourth-generation Bill Ford Jr is chairman of the company and works alongside four other family members. The group, ranked second in CampdenFB’s top 100 family businesses in North America based on revenues, had 2010 sales of $128.9 billion, up from $116.2 billion the previous year.

Toyota was founded in 1937 by Sakichi Toyoda. The descendants of the family made big management changes earlier this year in an attempt to fasten decision-making and rebuild company image after sales in the US, one of its biggest markets, fell by 7% in the year to July. Toyota is the world’s third-largest automobile maker.

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