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Government figures tried to bring Nissan Motor Co. and Honda Motor Co. to the table for merger talks this year, but the project fizzled out due to the companies’ rejection of the idea, the Financial Times reported Sunday.

The suggestion was made to the major automakers at the end of last year, amid intensified global competition in the auto sector to shift toward self-driving electric vehicles, the international business paper said, citing three people familiar with the matter.

The idea of bringing together Nissan and Honda appears to have come from advisers to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, as they were worried that the state of Nissan’s alliance with Renault SA of France had soured badly since the 2018 arrest of former boss Carlos Ghosn over financial misconduct, the newspaper reported.

Abe’s aides feared that Nissan’s deteriorating ties with Renault could result in the alliance collapsing altogether and “leave the Japanese company exposed,” the FT said. The three-way alliance also involves Japan’s Mitsubishi Motors Corp.

Officials of Honda, Japan’s second biggest automaker by volume, resisted the idea, pointing to Nissan’s complex capital structure with Renault, according to the report. Nissan, the country’s third largest carmaker, was also opposed to it as the company focuses on getting its alliance back on track, the report said.

The idea disappeared before it reached the boards of the two companies, the FT said.

Among Japan’s eight big car brands, four of them — Mazda Motor Corp., Subaru Corp., Suzuki Motor Corp., and Daihatsu Motor Co. — are tied by cross-shareholdings with Toyota Motor Corp., the country’s leading automaker, leaving only Honda without a capital tie-up.

Increasing demand for electric cars and other technology spending has helped accelerate mergers or alliances of automakers around the world, with Peugeot owner PSA Group merging with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV, and Ford Motor Co. and Volkswagen AG forming an alliance last year to save costs.

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