updated 5/9/2005 7:43:55 AM ET 2005-05-09T11:43:55

General Motors Corp. denied Sunday an online news report that the U.S. automaker and Toyota Motor Corp. of Japan are in talks about a possible technology-sharing pact that could result in a quicker, wider offering of gasoline-electric hybrid vehicles.

According to the report that was posted on the Wall Street Journal's online site, details of the discussions remain fuzzy, but it said GM chairman and chief executive Rick Wagoner was planning to head to Japan this month to meet with top Toyota officials.

"There is no truth to that whatsoever," Scott Fosgard, GM's spokesman for advanced technology, told The Associated Press on Sunday.

Fosgard said that Wagoner planned a visit this month to the 2005 World Expo in Aichi, where Toyota is based. But he said it was a brief visit to the fair and had nothing to do with talks with Toyota.

"It's a short in-and-out trip," Fosgard said. He also denied anyone else at GM was holding such talks.

Toyota spokesman Paul Nolasco said the company had no immediate comment on the news report.

In December, GM and DaimlerChrysler AG said they were teaming up to develop fuel-saving hybrid engines in hopes of cashing in on an expanding market already dominated by hybrid leaders Toyota and Honda Motor Co.

GM has been losing sales in the U.S. to Toyota and other Asian rivals and has faced enormous health care and post-retirement liabilities.

On Thursday, Standard & Poor's Ratings Services cut its corporate credit ratings to junk status for both GM and Ford Motor Co., a big blow that will increase borrowing costs and limit fund-raising options for the nation's two biggest automakers. The cuts were largely because of increasing concern about the two companies' dependency on big SUVs for profits.

GM has shed little light into how it plans to turn around its fortunes. In a brief statement after Standard & Poor's knocked GM's $291 billion in debt to below investment grade, the company said it was "firmly committed to improving its performance as quickly as possible."

Last week was a rocky one for GM.

On Tuesday, GM reported that its vehicle sales fell again in April, a downer for the company's already slumping share price. The next day, GM's value rose on news that billionaire Kirk Kerkorian wants to increase his stake in the company from nearly 4 percent to roughly 9 percent. But some analysts say Kerkorian could be a distraction to Wagoner and others trying to stabilize sales.

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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