The chief executives of General Motors and Renault-Nissan were meeting last night in Detroit, a formal first step in complex talks that could change the face of the global auto industry.
The high-profile meeting between Rick Wagoner and Carlos Ghosn came two weeks after GM's largest individual shareholder, billionaire investor Kirk Kerkorian, went public with his surprise bid to broker a sweeping alliance that would see Renault and Nissan take a substantial stake in GM.
Both companies are headed by Ghosn, who told reporters on Friday that he looked forward to "very brisk" negotiations that he said would only succeed if all sides would benefit.
"If not, we will shake hands and return to our battlefield," said Ghosn at a news conference outside a Nissan facility in the Detroit suburb of Farmington Hills.
Analysts remain divided about whether the tie-up would produce the cost-savings Kerkorian has suggested or threaten to distract both CEOs at crucial times for their respective companies.
Ghosn said that his initial dinner meeting with Wagoner would focus on identifying areas for potential cooperation, establishing the size and scope of the negotiating teams and setting ground rules for how information on the talks will be communicated to the media and investors.
"I don't think that anything will be decided. We have to sit down and say How do we proceed?," Ghosn said.
Wagoner has said this week that the world's largest automaker by sales was not relying on a white knight to rescue it from its deep-seated problems.