TOKYO -- The head of Toyota Motor Corp. said on Tuesday he would not rule out buying a stake in a non-Japanese automaker, but added it was not clear how much need there was for such a move.
"I wouldn't say the possibility was zero," President Katsuaki Watanabe said at an industry conference when asked whether the automaker would consider a stake in a competitor outside Japan.
"It's a question of whether there would be a need for that," Watanabe said.
In a surprise move, Japan's top automaker this month announced it would buy part of General Motors' 20-percent stake in Subaru-maker Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd. to seek cooperation in the areas of production and R&D.
Toyota's other capital alliances, with minivehicle maker Daihatsu Motor Co. and truckmaker Hino Motors Ltd., are also domestic.
While Toyota has no capital ties with foreign automakers, it has many operational alliances, including joint venture factories with GM in California and PSA/Peugeot-Citroen in the Czech Republic.
Watanabe said the purchase of an 8.7-percent stake in Fuji Heavy was not aimed at expanding Toyota's sales volume as it edges in on GM as the world's top seller of automobiles.
"There are a lot of issues we face in the field of production and technology," Watanabe said. "Fuji Heavy is a wonderful company and there is a lot they can offer, and we think there are areas where we can help too."
With its global sales rising at a pace of about 500,000 units annually, Toyota's production capacity and engineering resources are stretched. Some of Fuji Heavy's assembly plants, meanwhile, are underutilized as sales remain stagnant, especially in the key U.S. market.
Asked about the possibility of Toyota's becoming the world's biggest automaker during his term, Watanabe, who took his post in June, insisted that was not a target, but that he hoped it would simply follow as a result of offering "good products and service".
"It's not about volume. I don't want that to be the driver for our growth," he said.