Toyota Motor Corp. President Fujio Cho said Thursday that he affirmed a partnership with General Motors Corp. at a recent meeting with GM Chief Executive Rick Wagoner but denied a deal was coming soon to share hybrid technology.
“It’s not possible,” Cho told a small group of reporters at a reception for auto officials in Tokyo, while acknowledging future talks may produce results.
Cho said GM and Toyota have been exchanging information about fuel cells, but they have not reached a point of developing technology together.
The Japanese media have been rife with speculation that Toyota and GM may come up with a new deal on environmental technology, such as hybrids or fuel cells, as part of a 1999 pact the automakers have to work together on such technology.
Hybrids produce good mileage by switching between an electric motor and gas engine, and Toyota has an edge in that technology with its popular Prius sedans.
Fuel cells are still largely an experimental technology that’s pollution-free because the vehicles run on energy produced when hydrogen stored in a fuel tank combines with oxygen in the air.
At a time when booming Japanese automakers are grabbing U.S. market share from faltering GM and Ford Motor Co., Toyota and Japan’s other manufacturers are growing jittery about a replay of trade tensions that surfaced during the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Wagoner, who met with Cho and other officials over dinner last weekend while visiting the Aichi World Expo in Japan, discussed the importance of GM and Toyota ties as a legacy, Cho said.
“We agreed we must make sure this pipeline of partnership grows stronger, not weaker,” Cho said.
Toyota and GM have a long partnership that does not involve stakes in each other. They run a plant together in California.
Cho doesn’t expect anti-Japanese sentiments to flare up immediately in the United States, but Toyota officials have been watching closely for any signs, he said.
Compared to two decades ago, Japanese automakers have opened more U.S. plants and are increasingly being seen as good corporate citizens that create jobs and good products for Americans.
Earlier this week, Toyota announced it will start making hybrids at its plant in Kentucky.