TOKYO - Toyota Motor Corp. President Hiroshi Okuda said here last week that he wants to acquire a majority stake in the company's Japanese affiliates, Daihatsu Motor Co. and Hino Motors Ltd.
Okuda, speaking to reporters after the groundbreaking of a Toyota theme park pavilion in a Tokyo Bay redevelopment project, did not give a timetable for increasing Toyota's investment in the two companies.
But he is capable of acting quickly. Soon after becoming president of Toyota about three years ago, Okuda raised Toyota's stake in small-car specialist Daihatsu from 16.8 percent to a controlling 33.4 percent.
Last fall, he raised Toyota's stake in truckmaker Hino from 16.4 percent to 20.1 percent.
Japanese press reports have suggested Okuda wants to turn Toyota into a full-line carmaker by tightening ties with its two affiliates.
Buying more of Daihatsu would give Toyota 'a more direct stake in the minivehicle market, which is one of every four cars on Japanese roads,' said Edward Brogan, an analyst with Salomon Smith Barney Japan Ltd. Minivehicles have engines under 660cc and are taxed at preferential rates.
'With the market moving to smaller cars in general,' Daihatsu could become a fifth sales channel for Toyota in Japan, he said.
Brogan said, however, that taking a majority stake in Hino seemed 'a little more difficult' to justify.
Okuda has approved a number of other investments, including the purchase of a helicopter firm, a wooden-home builder and considerable spending on telecommunications companies.
Toyota's theme park will cost about $111 million at current exchange rates. It will feature pavilions devoted to the past, present, and future of the auto industry, as well as separate test-drive tracks for Toyota gasoline- and electric-powered vehicles.