By Liz White, UT staffSouthfield, Michigan-Private equity group WL Ross & Co. llc may cooperate with automotive interiors supplier Lear Corp. to explore the acquisition of some or all of bankrupt Collins & Aikman Corp. The two partners announced 17 Oct that they would examine the possibility of forming a joint venture to assess opportunities for strategic acquisition in automotive interior components. And one of these opportunities would be troubled Collins & Aikman, which WL Ross recently bought a 10 percent stake in. Lear has also recently commented that putting its own interiors business with C&A's might make sense. Such a move would create a giant interiors business with more bargaining power in the low-margin automotive supply sector, which is constantly under pressure from the car makers to offer cost reductions on contracts. "This proposed joint venture with Lear provides a solid platform for building a leading, global automotive interior components supplier. We see many opportunities to improve the operating fundamentals and profitably grow this business through acquisitions and restructuring actions," said Wilbur Ross Jr, WL Ross chairman and ceo, in a joint statement. Franklin Mutual Advisers llc has agreed to co-invest in the proposed joint venture with WL Ross. Only Lear's interios business is involved, with WL Ross contributing capital to fund acquisitions. "The market for interior component products is severely distressed and we have indicated that we are actively engaged in finding a better solution for our customers and our shareholders," said Bob Rossiter, Lear chairman and ceo, in the Lear/Ross statement. "With the support of our customers, the proposed joint venture provides the best near and long-term opportunity to achieve a viable business model for this product segment," Rossiter continued. He pointed out that this route also offers a chance to "participate in the ongoing restructuring and consolidation of the automotive supply industry."WL Ross has sponsored $4500 million of alternative investments in the steel, textiles, coal, automotive and financial services industries in the US, UK, France, China, Japan and Korea."