Is a war of words going on between Ford and GM? The participants are downplaying it. But it seems the two sides are sniping at each other and getting on each others nerves.

The Big Two are tough competitors. But they seldom take the gloves off in public. They're doing that now though.

For instance, when Ford announced it will build more fuel efficient vehicles. GM Vice Chairman Harry Pearce implied Ford was grandstanding. And as if Ford didn't have enough problems with its Firestone tire fiasco, GM announced that it has no problems, suggesting its specification standards are tougher than Ford's. Ford spokesman Jason Vines says GM's tire announcement seemed "a little cavalier."

Meanwhile, GM CEO Rick Wagner describes the back-and-forth barbs as "more friendly rivalry than a spitting contest."