You couldn't help but notice the headline at the top of the Web site: "Don't Sell Parts to Hyundai" -- Toyota Leader's Shocking Words.
It's an intriguing thought, even for a tabloid-style headline in a Japanese report.
Toyota's brass are plenty concerned about Hyundai, the story says, because they now consider the Korean automaker Toyota's primary rival, not General Motors. This is, at least, according to Japan Information Network Business News, jinbn.com.
How concerned is Toyota?
The story says that Toyota execs are so concerned they're ready to strong-arm their own suppliers to prevent them from selling parts to Hyundai, even if they must buy a controlling interest in some suppliers to prevent it.
Not so fast, says Toyota, which roundly rejects the suggestion that it is muscling its suppliers. "Toyota does not prohibit group company suppliers from doing business from other automakers," said a spokesman for the automaker.
Still, the story says that the island of Kyushu is the flashpoint.
Kyushu is the third-largest island of Japan and the most southern and western of the four main islands. It also has become something of an industry hotbed, with Toyota, Nissan, Mazda and Daihatsu opening assembly plants there. They've been followed by supplier factories.
It's the island's proximity to southeast Korea that's the issue. As suppliers build more factories on Kyushu, they're looking across the Korea Strait to nearby Hyundai plants as potential customers. Toyota is balking at this, arguing that such activity is a no-no because major components are developed jointly by suppliers and automakers, according to the Web report.
"It's like fattening a rival company at Toyota's own development expenses," the report quotes an unnamed Toyota official as saying.
Interesting story, but does it pass the smell test?
These days, it's pretty tough to keep your suppliers from doing business with the competition, even in Japan. And it's hard to imagine a top Toyota official being so outspoken. Even so, with Hyundai's drive upmarket and its dramatic improvement in quality, you could understand if Toyota execs are a little wary.
If I put my feet up on the desk, close my eyes and drift back a few years, I can almost hear American execs warning their suppliers not to do business with the Japanese.
The smart ones didn't listen.
You may e-mail Edward Lapham at [email protected]