Toyota Motor Corp. President Katsuaki Watanabe said Thursday his firm has no plan to block alliance talks involving General Motors Corp., Nissan Motor Co. and Renault SA.

During a news conference at a Tokyo hotel, Watanabe, however, added that Toyota hopes to maintain the business ties it currently has with GM.

The two companies set up a joint assembly plant in 1984 in the U.S. and have cooperated in car technology.

“We are not considering” cutting in on the possible GM-Nissan-Renault alliance, Watanabe said.

“The ties we currently have with GM are proceeding very effectively,” he said. “We hope to continue this good relationship. We do not intend to propose anything (to sever the ties).”

Last week, BusinessWeek reported on its Web site that Toyota, furious with the sudden announcement that GM was mulling an alliance with Nissan and Renault, is considering to propose an expanded business tieup with GM in a bid to prevent the three-way alliance.

GM, Nissan and Renault agreed earlier this month to start negotiations that could lead to the world’s biggest automaker alliance.

Watanabe, however, did not rule out seeking ties with other automakers.

Although Toyota, Japan’s biggest automaker, is unlikely to seek capital ties with others, it is possible the company will establish business ties that do not involve a capital exchange, Watanabe said.

“If we can agree (with another company) to cooperate on technologies in the fields of environment and safety that are developing quickly, that is a possibility,” Watanabe said. “But we don’t have any ongoing plans.”

Watanabe also apologized over the recent revelation that Toyota is under investigation for failing to issue a timely recall of Hilux Surf sport utility vehicles.

“I feel a great sense of crisis for betraying our customers’ expectations,” he said. “I deeply apologize for the trouble.”

Watanabe also said he will “deeply reflect on” the fact that it took more than a week for Toyota to officially explain about the recall delay.

The company will thoroughly investigate and take preventive measures, he said.

400,000 unit recall

NEW YORK (Kyodo) Toyota Motor Corp. has told U.S. regulatory authorities it will recall about 400,000 vehicles spanning four models to fix sensors in the crankshaft and loose console boxes, company officials said Wednesday.

About 35,000 of the vehicles affected are 2001 and 2002 Prius and Echo models. The remaining 367,000 vehicles are 2004-2005 models and the 2006 model hybrid of the Highlander and Lexus RX330.

The largest Japanese automaker said it found defects in the sensors that detect the crankshaft’s angle. It also said the console boxes in those models are not secure enough and could open abruptly during driving.

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