The collapse of General Motors' potential alliance with Nissan and Renault has revived speculation that fellow beleaguered American motor giant Ford might step into the breach.
The sudden end to the talks after three months left Renault-Nissan free to pursue another partner as expectations built it could approach Ford, which owns Land Rover and Jaguar in the UK.
Ford refused to say whether it was interested in an alliance with the two foreign auto-makers, and analysts downplayed the likelihood of a partnership forming any time soon.
"We remain convinced that the Renault-Nissan alliance could be extended to work with additional partners," Nissan spokeswoman Mia Nielsen said.
Morgan Stanley analyst Jonathan Steinmetz said the failure of the GM-Renault Nissan alliance paved the way for a link with Ford, although this might not be immediate.
"Ford management's seeming willingness to explore an alliance is a big difference versus GM," Mr Steinmetz said.
It was reported in August that Bill Ford, now the company's executive chairman, had approached Carlos Ghosn about joining the global alliance.
This claim, attributed only to "a person well-positioned to know", triggered a four per cent jump in Ford shares that day.
Nissan North America spokesman Fred Standish said: "Right now we're looking at things, but we've had no contact with Ford at this point that I'm aware of.
"But we don't know what the future may hold."
Bank of America analyst Ronald Tadross said Ford appeared more likely than GM to benefit from purchasing savings as part of a Nissan-Renault alliance.
But he said there was only a "mixed probability" of such a coalition arising.
Ford spokesman Oscar Suris said: "We're not engaging in any speculation regarding the possibility of future talks with any other automakers.
"Our top priority is the turnaround of our North American business."
Dearborn-based Ford's updated Way Forward plan aims to cut $5 billion (£2.65 billion) in costs by the end of 2008 by slashing 10,000 white-collar workers and offering buyouts to all of its 75,000 unionised employees.
Last month it was claimed that high-level executives from GM and Ford had discussed a merger or alliance last summer, but those talks were not ongoing.
Rick Wagoner, chairman and chief executive of GM, said: "We as a regular practice talk to just about everybody in the world. We are open to ideas for projects that create value."
But one car industry source said it was unlikely Renault and Nissan would rush into talks with Ford, as this would be the last option for a deal with a Big Three company as Chrysler has already been absorbed by DaimlerChrysler.
"For the Nissan-Renault alliance to be able to remain competitive against Toyota they need to be present on the North American market with a significant market share," said CSFB analyst Harald Hendrikse.
"And on the American market there are only two candidates - GM or Ford."