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Ford, Toyota downplay top-level talks

Meeting focused on tech, they say

Toyota hit a record stock price on the Nikkei exchange in Tokyo yesterday after a meeting between Toyota chairman Fujio Cho and Ford chief Alan Mulally was confirmed publicly. (toru hanai/reuters)

TOKYO -- A spokeswoman for Japanese automaker Toyota Motor Corp. confirmed yesterday that chairman Fujio Cho met for talks with Ford Motor Co. president and chief executive Alan Mulally last week .

Toyota spokeswoman Yasue Kato said Cho and Mulally "met and exchanged greetings," but refused to offer details, including when and where the talks took place. She added that Toyota "regularly holds meetings with other automakers when the opportunity presents itself."

"We meet regularly with other automakers on a variety of topics of mutual interest," Ford spokesman Tom Hoyt said. "We don't discuss the content of these meetings."

The comments came in response to an overnight report on The Wall Street Journal's website and in yesterday's morning edition of Japan's Nihon Keizai business daily that the two executives met last week.

The meeting was held at Ford's request, Kyodo News agency said , citing an unidentified Toyota official. The talks appear to have focused on how the two companies can strengthen cooperation in environmental technology, Kyodo and the Nihon Keizai said.

The struggling US automaker has acknowledged that it lags behind rivals in offering the right mix of fuel-efficient models to consumers, who have been placing an increasing emphasis on fuel economy. Susan Cischke, a Ford vice president overseeing environmental and safety engineering, told reporters in Tokyo in October that the company sees ecological technology as crucial.

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