To survive costly high-tech global competition in the auto industry, Nissan Motor Co. and Hitachi Ltd. announced Monday they are studying an alliance to jointly develop next-generation electronic technologies for automobiles.

The pillar of the arrangement will be an intelligent transportation system for improving semiautomatic driving of electronically controlled vehicles. The two firms will launch feasibility studies on the alliance, with an eye toward completion by next spring.

To promote the collaboration, Hitachi is considering ownership in Unisia JECS Corp., one of Nissan’s three largest auto parts affiliates, the two firms said. Hitachi intends to become the second-largest shareholder in the Kanagawa Prefecture-based firm by either purchasing Nissan-owned stocks, or by acquiring shares issued through a third-party allotment.

Unisia’s second-largest shareholder is currently German auto parts maker Robert Bosch GmbH, which has a 10.1 percent share of Unisia’s outstanding stock, Hitachi officials said. Nissan is the largest shareholder, with 29.6 percent.

The scope of the planned feasibility studies appears to be far-reaching. It will cover next-generation fuel-injection systems, electronically controlled braking and steering systems, and computer software and hardware to command those electronics, the two firms said.

Yasutsugu Takeda, senior executive managing director at Hitachi, said the electronics giant may also transfer some of its personnel to Unisia, which in fiscal 1997 posted sales of 208.8 billion yen and pretax profits of 2.2 billion yen.

Research and development costs for automakers are rapidly increasing due to the evolution of electronics technologies and the need to deal with the public’s rising environmental concerns.

Industry observers expect the huge development costs to further accelerate realignment, which has been symbolized by the recent Daimler-Chrysler megamerger.

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