PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT TIEUP

Toyota to raise Fuji Heavy stake to 16.5%

by Hiroko Nakata

Toyota Motor Corp., Japan’s top carmaker, said Thursday it will raise its stake in Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd. to 16.5 percent from 8.7 percent to improve joint product development amid fierce global competition.

Toyota and Fuji Heavy have agreed to jointly develop a compact rear-wheel-drive sports car, aiming to widen their product lines.

The day’s announcement is intended to further enhance the competitive edge of Toyota, which ranked as the No. 1 carmaker in the world in terms of 2007 output, surpassing General Motors Corp.

But recent surging prices of oil and other materials, as well as the cloudy outlook for the U.S. economy and automobile market, prompted Toyota to take this new step.

Under the same agreement, Toyota will also provide FHI with a compact car on an original-equipment-manufacturing basis, while Toyota subsidiary Daihatsu Motors Co. will supply Fuji Heavy with minivehicles and compacts, also on an OEM basis.

“We have agreed to expand our cooperative ties for further product development and new lineup by utilizing each company’s technology,” Toyota President Katsuaki Watanabe told a news conference.

Toyota and Fuji Heavy aim to sell the sports car at the end of 2011. The new vehicle will use Fuji Heavy’s horizontally opposed engine, the automaker’s core technology.

Toyota will spend ¥31.11 billion to buy 61 million shares — about an 8 percent stake of FHI — after the stock transfer is approved by the Fair Trade Commission, they said. The price of the transfer will be ¥510 per share.

Fuji Heavy, known for its Subaru brand, said it will gradually end minivehicle output to focus on its core product line, which will offer “a sense of fun” to drivers, FHI President Ikuo Mori told the same news conference.