updated 12/27/2006 3:56:35 PM ET 2006-12-27T20:56:35

Japanese automaker Toyota Motor Corp. confirmed that Chairman Fujio Cho met with Ford Motor Co. President and Chief Executive Officer Alan Mulally, a company spokeswoman said Wednesday in the wake of media reports of talks between the two companies last week in Tokyo.

Toyota spokeswoman Yasue Kato said Cho and Mulally “met and exchanged greetings,” but refused to offer any further details, including when and where the talks took place. She added that Toyota “regularly holds meetings with other automakers when the opportunity presents itself.”

“We meet regularly with other automakers on a variety of topics of mutual interest,” Ford spokesman Tom Hoyt told The Associated Press. “We don’t discuss the content of these meetings.”

The comments came in response to an overnight report on the Wall Street Journal’s Web site and in the Wednesday morning edition of Japan’s Nihon Keizai business daily that the two executives met last week. The meeting took place in Tokyo, the Nihon Keizai said.

The meeting was held at Ford’s request, Kyodo News agency said Wednesday, citing an unidentified Toyota official. The talks appear to have focused on how the two companies can strengthen cooperation in environmental technology, Kyodo and the Nihon Keizai said.

The struggling U.S. automaker has acknowledged that it lags behind rivals in offering the right mix of fuel-efficient models to consumers, who have been placing an increasing emphasis on fuel economy. Susan Cischke, a Ford vice president overseeing environmental and safety engineering, told reporters in Tokyo in October that the company sees ecological technology as crucial.

Toyota has been a leader in the field. The company licensed a number of hybrid system patents to Ford in March 2004 for use in Ford’s own hybrid system, and its hybrid-electric Toyota Prius topped the U.S. government’s annual top-10 fuel economy list for 2007 vehicles released this past October.

The troubles in the U.S. auto industry in the face of their Japanese rivals’ success have led to major restructuring efforts by U.S. automakers.

For the latest quarter, Toyota, Japan’s No. 1 automaker, earned $3.44 billion, while Ford lost $5.8 billion.

The world’s No. 1 automaker, General Motors Corp., said in October that it had called off discussions with Japan’s Nissan Motor Co. and France’s Renault SA on creating an auto-making alliance. Nissan and Renault already are allied.

Copyright 2012 Thomson Reuters. Click for restrictions.

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