TOKYO — The world's biggest automakers have tried partnering with Suzuki Motor Corp. over the years. First came General Motors, then Volkswagen. Now, it's Toyota's turn.
Toyota Motor Corp. deepened its ties with the Japanese small-car specialist last week, announcing it will spend ¥96 billion ($906.8 million) to take a 4.9 percent stake in the company, aiming to succeed where its American and German rivals failed.
Why are these global goliaths so interested in pint-sized Suzuki?
In one word: India.
The subcontinent is the world's No. 4 market and is on pace to supplant Japan as No. 3 behind China and the U.S.
Suzuki — through its Maruti Suzuki India subsidiary — has locked up about 46 percent of the country's passenger vehicle sales. Even Toyota struggles by comparison.
The announcement of a capital alliance between the carmakers helps cement a bond that Toyota President Akio Toyoda and Suzuki Chairman Osamu Suzuki kicked off in October 2016.
As part of the latest agreement, Suzuki will also buy a token stake in Toyota.
But even before the capital tie-up, the partnership was helping Toyota in India. This year, Suzuki agreed to supply Toyota two compact vehicles for sale in India, and to assign production of a Suzuki compact SUV to a Toyota plant in India. They also agreed that Toyota will promote hybrids in India by locally procuring components.