Ford executives say they are open to partners on small cars

Mark Fields, President and CEO of Ford, speaks at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, January 11, 2016. REUTERS/Mark Blinch

DETROIT (Reuters) - Ford Motor Co F.N Chief Executive Mark Fields said on Thursday he is "always open to talking with others" about partnerships on small cars.

Fields was speaking generally about partnering on small cars without directly addressing whether he would consider a vehicle-making alliance with rival Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV FCHA.MIFCAU.N.

Fiat Chrysler Chief Executive Sergio Marchionne said on Wednesday the company would stop making two sedans, the compact Dodge Dart and midsize Chrysler 200, and said he was looking for partners to share small car production.

Cheap gasoline has undercut the already-narrow profit margins for smaller cars while stoking demand for trucks and sport utility vehicles.

Asked during a conference call about the Fiat Chrysler move, Fields said Ford is “always open to talking with others ... because we realize that we have to be very realistic around what is the type of revenue that these vehicles will be able to command and make sure we have an appropriate cost structure to earn a reasonable return.”

Fields said Ford initially determines whether a “need in the marketplace” can be met fully within the company.

“In other cases we can say, listen, there are other great companies out there that we can approach and partner with,” he said. Earlier on Thursday, Ford reported record pre-tax profit of nearly $11 billion for 2015 and said it expects to match or improve on that in 2016.

Ford Chief Financial Officer Bob Shanks in a separate interview pointed to Ford's collaboration with General Motors Co GM.N on fuel-saving transmissions as an example of how the company will work with rivals to share costs.

“I think there are all sorts of things that one can do in terms of partnerships and collaborations, at the vehicle level, and the component level, and elsewhere. I think everything’s on the table,” Shanks said.

Reporting by Bernie Woodall; Editing by Tom Brown