Toyota queried by China regulator amid antitrust probe, report says

Investigations revive protectionism concerns

UPDATED: 8/7/14 10:44 am ET - adds background

TOKYO -- China’s National Development and Reform Commission, which is conducting an antitrust probe into the auto industry, has asked Toyota Motor Corp. about its business practices, two people familiar with the matter told Bloomberg.

It’s unclear whether the inquiries are part of an antitrust investigation by the regulator, the people said, asking not to be named because the information is private.

Liu Peng, Beijing-based spokesman for Toyota, declined to comment, while the press office at the NDRC, China’s main economic planner, didn’t immediately respond to a faxed request for comment.

China, home to the world’s largest auto market, is stepping up scrutiny over how much foreign automakers charge for vehicles and spare parts. The government began looking into possible antitrust violations in the auto industry at the end of 2011 as state media accused carmakers for inflating prices and overcharging consumers.

The NDRC has completed an investigation into 12 Japanese companies and will announce the actions it plans against violators, spokesman Li Pumin said Wednesday. He declined to name the companies.

NDRC officials held talks with Toyota’s Lexus recently, China Business News reported, citing people it didn’t identify.