shopping for a menís dress shirt at a department store. There seem
to be a number of brands to choose from: Calvin Klein, Tommy
Hilfinger, Van Heusen, Eagle, Izod, Arrow, Chaps, DKNY, Donald J.
Trump, Geoffrey Beene, Joseph Abboud, Michael Kors, Sean John, Ike
Behar, Valentino, Ted Baker and Kenneth Cole. Yet all are produced
under the auspices of one company: Phillips Van Heusen. Itís not
so different when it comes to cars.
probably never suspect that Audi, Bentley, Bugatti, Ducati,
Lamborghini, Porsche, SEAT, and Skoda are owned by Volkswagen.
Fiat Group owns Alfa Romeo, Ferrari, Lancia and Maserati, Chrysler,
Dodge, Jeep, Ram and SRT. This is why the new Dodge Dart and Jeep
Cherokee use an Alfa Romeo platform, while the Dodge Journey is sold
in Europe as the Fiat Freemont, and the Chrysler 300 has been
rebadged as the Lancia Thema.
not the case with Ford, which had owned Jaguar, Land Rover, Volvo
and most of Mazda. Ford retained a 3.5 percent stake in Mazda, but
sold its British brands to Indiaís Tata Motors in 2008. Two years
later, Ford sold Volvo to Chinese auto maker Zhejiang Geely Holding
Group, leaving Ford to sell Fords and Lincolns.
General Motors, which produces Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, and GMC,
as well as Opel in Germany, Vauxhall in England and Holden in
Australia, sold its one acquisition, Saab, to Dutch sports car maker
Spyker Cars in 2010. A year later, production ground to a halt. Now
Saabís assets are owned by the Chinese-backed National Electric
Vehicles Sweden, which plans to restart production by yearís end.
cars built by Chinese companies? Does that seem strange?
Wait, it gets
stranger. Who would have guessed that German automaker BMW would own
two quintessentially British brands: Mini, which it acquired in
1994, and the license to produce Rolls-Royce cars, which it bought
four years later from aerospace company Rolls-Royce PLC?
of unlikely bedfellows, how about Renault? The French company owns
43.4 percent of Nissan, the Japanese automaker behind Infiniti. And
last week, the Renault-Nissan alliance announced plans to deepen
cooperation of vehicle development with Mitsubishi, a company that
had been independent since it ended its relationship with Chrysler,
which lasted from 1971 to 2009.
Daimler AG looks like a piker. It owns only Mercedes-Benz and Smart,
and holds a small stake in Tesla.
Over in Asia,
Toyota is a true juggernaut, selling Lexus, Scion, Toyota, Daihatsu
and Hino Motors products. And it has small stakes in Tesla, Isuzu
and Fuji Heavy Industries ó Subaruís parent company.
aside from Fordís small stake, Mazda is a standalone auto maker,
as is Honda, which also builds Acuras.
Korea, where Hyundai and Kia share something besides a chairman.
Strip the top off of the Hyundai Sonata and Kia Optima and youíll
find the same platform and mechanical bits. But like the rest of the
line-up, the two cars were designed in different studios and were
financed, built and sold by separate companies.
It may seem
that you no longer have a lot of choice, but you do. Unlike a dress
shirt, you can still buy a car or truck from a handful of companies,
rather than just one.