Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation (SAIC) and Nanjing Auto announced a “strategic alliance” Friday as a first step toward an eventual “complete union” of the two Chinese automakers, AFP reported. The steps toward an eventual merger represent part of a coordinated effort by Beijing to develop the Yangtze River Delta region and consolidate major national industries. Beijing has supported increasing consolidation in strategic industries as a method to enhance global competitiveness and create national brands. An eventual merger would increase the size of SAIC, already the country's largest automaker, by an additional 200,000 units a year. Both sides cautioned that the cooperative effort was still in an exploratory stage and discouraged further speculation about a possible buyout.