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Japanese giants join forces

Likely pair ... Subaru's B11S, right, and Toyota's FT-HS.

Styled by Toyota, powered by Subaru, the rear-wheel-drive, boxer-engined compact sports car will be developed as a joint venture, with an expected on-sale date of late 2010.

Each company will come away from the deal with its own badge-specific model but it's expected there will be precious little difference in the pigeon pair. However, for both companies the development will require some serious rethinking on their core philosophies.

It will be the first time Toyota has used the boxer engine technology, while Subaru has invested a fortune in convincing consumers of the safety benefits of its all-wheel-drive platforms.

Both Subaru and Toyota are taking a “softly, softly” approach to the news of the pending joint venture, denying there have been local marketing discussions but certainly not ruling them out.

“We have a very long-term commitment to four-wheel-drive with boxer engines and that will continue for the foreseeable future, but having said that, we used to have frontwheel-drive-cars and we would always consider other combinations down the track,” says Subaru's Dave Rowley.

Toyota takes a similar view, with spokesman Mike Breen saying there is a lot of water to pass under the bridge before a decision is made.

“We don't really have any news from TMC on how it affects us or whether we'll be taking the car or not,” Breen says.

“All I can say is there's no plan at this stage to bring the car in, but that doesn't mean there won't be in the future.”

News of the sports car co-operation came in an announcement from Toyota Motor Corp that it will spend $333million to raise its stake in Fuji Heavy Industries — which makes Subaru cars — to 16.5per cent. Toyota will handle the basic design, while Fuji will develop the engine.

Fuji already makes the popular Toyota Camry at its US plant in Indiana.

Various sketches and impressions have already appeared on the internet.

The design could draw on the style of recent concept cars, including the Toyota FT-HS and the Subaru B11S. Toyota president Katsuaki Watanabe says the success so far of the partnership with Fuji has been a driving factor.

The companies' engineers work well together, according to Watanabe, and this “naturally” led to the decision to raise Toyota's stake in Fuji in an effort to solidify the tie-up.

“The alliance with Fuji Heavy is a win-win situation,” he says.”We can count on Fuji's superb engineering.”