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BMW, Toyota move forward with midsize sports car program

Toyota's FT-1 coupe.

MUNICH -- BMW AG and Toyota Motor Corp. are moving closer to putting jointly developed sports cars on the road.

Cooperation on the underpinnings of the vehicles "has moved on to the concept phase and is running according to plan," BMW said in a statement Thursday.

A technical feasibility study that began in January 2013 has been "successfully completed."

The midsize model is the most visible project within a broader partnership the manufacturers have said will last until at least 2020.

The two companies have been tight-lipped about details, including the targeted introduction date, after announcing the plan early last year.

Toyota today confirmed that the project has moved beyond the feasibility stage, which was initially due to be completed by the end of 2013.

Toyota, the world's largest automaker, needs sports cars "to put that energy back into the brand," Europe Executive Vice President Karl Schlicht said last month at the Paris Motor Show when asked about the cooperation with BMW, which this year started selling the racy $135,700 i8 plug-in hybrid.

In January, Toyota showed the FT-1 coupe concept at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. The company said the rear-wheel-drive sports car's design drew from past models including the Supra, 2000GT and Celica.

In addition to the sports car, Toyota and the world's biggest maker of luxury vehicles are cooperating on research into fuel cells, lightweight technology and lithium-air batteries.

The two companies agreed to work together on lithium ion batteries in 2012.

Both companies declined to comment further on the new sports cars.

Automakers tend to look for partners to limit costs of developing new technology and small-scale vehicles.

Other tie-ups include Daimler AG's cooperation with the Renault SA-Nissan Motor Corp. alliance, which has been gradually expanding beyond projects such as new versions of Daimler's urban Smart cars and Renault's Twingo subcompact.

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