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Suzuki Motor Corp. said Thursday it started arbitration procedures over its partnership with Volkswagen AG as the domestic carmaker seeks to buy back its shares after declaring an end to their 2-year-old cooperation agreement.

The arbitration will take place at an international court in London, Hamamatsu, Shizuoka Prefecture-based Suzuki said in a statement to the Tokyo Stock Exchange.

The carmaker said Nov. 18 it had terminated the partnership with Wolfsburg, Germany-based Volkswagen and is demanding the German automaker sell back its 19.9 percent stake in Suzuki.

Each company has accused the other of breaching the cooperation agreement, which was meant to supply Suzuki with technology and provide VW with access to the Indian car market. The carmakers have been at odds since VW described Suzuki as an “associate” in its 2010 annual report, even after VW backed away from the description last month.

Suzuki’s move “can be seen as a step toward reaching a conclusion on the partnership,” said Satoru Takada, an auto analyst at TIW Inc. in Tokyo. “If the arbitration process takes long, it may affect the relationships Suzuki and VW have with their other business partners.”

VW has rejected efforts to force an end to the companies’ agreement and said on Nov. 18 that Suzuki’s threats to enter arbitration were “without foundation,” reaffirming plans to retain its stake.

Megumi Adachi, a spokeswoman for VW in Tokyo, declined comment on Thursday’s announcement and directed questions about the partnership to the company’s headquarters.

Suzuki is prepared for the arbitration process to take up to two years to complete, Executive Vice President Yasuhito Harayama said Nov. 18.

“While an arbitration will be legally binding, we think our relationship with Volkswagen may resolve in a friendly manner,” he said.

MMC electric minicar

Mitsubishi Motors Corp. said Thursday it will launch a minicar-class commercial electric vehicle in Japan on Dec. 8 as the second product in its next-generation EV lineup.

The MINICAB-MiEV, derived from the MINICAB Van minicar-class commercial vehicle, builds on knowledge gained in the development of i-MiEV cars already on the market, Mitsubishi said.

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