updated 9/18/2006 9:25:10 AM ET 2006-09-18T13:25:10

Executives of General Motors Corp. and Ford Motor Co. have discussed a possible merger or alliance, the trade journal Automotive News reported Monday. Both companies declined comment on the report.

Automotive News quoted what it said were several people familiar with the talks as saying that discussions involving senior executives began in July and are not taking place now.

The report comes as GM and Ford have been slashing their work forces and closing plants in efforts to reverse multibillion dollar losses. Their sales have been hurt by competition from more fuel-efficient models from Asian automakers.

As the two biggest U.S. automakers, any deal would presumably face scrutiny by U.S. antitrust regulators.

In July, GM, Renault SA of France and Nissan Motor Co. of Japan announced a 90-day review of an alliance among them.

“As we’ve often said, GM officials routinely discuss issues of mutual interest with other automakers,” GM spokesman Brian Akre said before business hours Monday. “As a policy, we do not confirm or comment publicly on those private discussions, which in many cases do not lead anywhere.”

Ford spokesman Oscar Suris, also speaking before business hours, said: “We’re not commenting on speculation.”

Talk of alliances involving GM came after GM shareholder Kirk Kerkorian, who owns a 9.9 percent stake in the company, called for GM, Renault and Nissan to pursue an alliance.

Carlos Ghosn, the chief executive of Renault and Nissan, has said the benefits from an alliance would be similar to the gains from the Renault-Nissan alliance, which have included cost savings from joint purchases of auto parts.

Ford earlier declined to comment on an August Wall Street Journal report that then-Chief Executive Bill Ford approached Ghosn about a Ford alliance with Renault and Nissan.

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