By TOM KRISHER and YURI KAGEYAMAAP Business Writers
TOKYO (AP) — Japanese automakers Toyota Motor Corp. and Mazda Motor Corp. are partnering in electric vehicles with a deal that may lead to setting up an assembly plant in the U.S.
The Japanese Nikkei business daily reported Friday the agreement will include working toward setting up a U.S. joint-venture plant and cooperation on electric vehicle technology.
Toyota said in a statement that it plans to propose to its board a partnership with Mazda. It gave no further details. Mazda declined comment.
A person briefed on the matter, who did not want to be identified because an official announcement hasn't been made, confirmed the partnership.
President Donald Trump has been urging Toyota and other Japanese automakers to invest and build more vehicles in the U.S.
Using the same plant to build vehicles can improve cost-efficiency.
EVs have become an increasingly competitive market segment because of concerns about global warming and the environment.
Japanese rival Nissan Motor Co., which is allied with Renault SA of France and Mitsubishi Motors Corp., is the global leader in electric vehicles.
In the past, Toyota, which makes the Prius hybrid, Camry sedan and Lexus luxury models, was not overly bullish on electric vehicles, noting the limited cruise range of the technology. But recent breakthroughs in batteries allows for longer travel per charge.
The Nikkei reported that two Japanese automakers are negotiating an agreement in which Toyota will take about a 5 percent stake in Mazda.
Mazda, which makes the Miata roadster, would also take a stake in Toyota, according to the report.
In 2015, Toyota and Mazda agreed to find new areas where they can work together, but they had not announced specifics.
Toyota already provides hybrid technology to Mazda, which also makes compact cars for Toyota at its Mexico plant.
Mazda, based in Hiroshima, Japan, used to have a powerful partner in Dearborn-based Ford Motor Co., which bought 25 percent of Mazda in 1979, and raised it to 33.4 percent in 1996. But Ford began cutting ties in 2008, and has shed its stake in Mazda.
Toyota is vying for the spot of the world's No. 1 automaker in global vehicle sales against Nissan-Renault and Volkswagen AG of Germany, as the industry gradually consolidates.
A capital tie-up with Mazda would be the latest addition to Toyota's sprawling empire, which includes Japanese truck maker Hino Motors and minicar maker Daihatsu Motor Co. It is also the top shareholder in Fuji Heavy Industries, the maker of Subaru cars.
Krisher reported from Detroit.
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