Call me a conspiracy theorist. Go ahead, I can take it.
Now that we have that out of the way, here's what I'm thinking: Toyota
You see, when Toyota's chairman, Hiroshi Okuda, opined a couple months ago that it might be prudent for Toyota to raise its prices a tad to give Detroit's automakers some breathing room, it could have been mere hubris -- Toyota needling the competition, suggesting that Detroit can only compete on price and not quality.
It could also have been a sign. For here comes Mr. Okuda again, suggesting that not only can't Detroit compete, but both Ford and GM might actually, and I quote, "crumble." This could result in a jingoistic backlash by American car buyers against the Japanese who laid Detroit low (never mind that if Ford and GM do indeed "crumble," those same car buyers won't have much choice but to buy imports, seeing as there would be no alternatives).
Now take those two factoids and combine them with GM CEO Rick Wagoner's recent trip to Toyota HQ to not discuss buying some hybrid technology from the masters of the craft. Consider the silliness of the CEO's assertion that he was actually in town to discuss collaborating on fuel-cell research ... a technology that may never become commercially viable. Har.
So GM wants to talk about fuel cells for tomorrow, when it's sadly lacking in hybrid cars today? Har-har.
And Toyota wants to partner this monumental undertaking with a company that its own chairman is publicly suggesting might go "poof!" at any moment? Hardy-har-har.
Still skeptical? You say that neither Ford nor GM would ever "pull a Chrysler" and sell out? Then consider two more facts suggesting just how tempting this scenario might be for all parties concerned: GM and Ford currently sport market caps of below $19 billion. Toyota has more than $19 billion in the bank. And incidentally, GM and Ford are each trading for about their cash on hand (if you ignore the piles of debt behind the curtain). So theoretically, a buyout of either of the Detroit giants would essentially be an even exchange: We give you our company, you assume our debt. Does any of this suggest a buyout scenario to you?
It does to me. But then, I'm a conspiracy theorist.
Fool contributor Rich Smith owns no shares in any company mentioned in this article, though he has, on occasion, claimed to see dead people. The Motley Fool makes no representations, express or implied, about his mental competence.