The motor industry is mourning the sudden death of Dana Corporation chairman and chief executive Joe Magliochetti, FT.com reported.

Magliochetti, 61, died on Monday night after a two-week illness, FT.com said, noting that he had been at Dana for 37 years and in recent months had been fending off a hostile takeover bid from Dana's smaller rival ArvinMeritor.

FT.com said ArvinMeritor has offered $US15 a share for Dana, saying a combination of the two would create a world leader in undercarriages and axles for the car and heavy truck markets. The bid, which has been extended once, expires next week and is not expected to be affected by Magliochetti's death, the report added.

ArvinMeritor spokeswoman Lin Cummins said: "We want to extend our deepest sympathies to Joe's family and our thoughts are also with the employees of Dana on the passing of a leader."

FT.com ArvinMeritor's offer was repeatedly rejected by Magliochetti and his board. "Joe Mag", as he was known in the industry, recently told the Financial Times he was "baffled" by the approach from ArvinMeritor and that a company restructuring would achieve results for Dana shareholders in the fourth quarter.

Part of Dana's defence against the bid is that a combined company would be too large in axles, FT.com said, adding that the Federal Trade Commission is studying ArvinMeritor's bid for possible antitrust issues.

According to FT.com, Dana said Magliochetti would be replaced as acting chairman by Glen Hiner, one of the company's longest serving directors, while Dana Automotive Systems president Bill Carroll would become "acting president", and Dana plans to hire an executive search company to find a new CEO.

FT.com noted that Magliochetti was on the boards of telecoms company BellSouth and insurer and healthcare provider Cigna Corporation, and a member of the US-Japan Business Council - he is survived by his wife Kathy and three children.