TOKYO — In a foreshadowing of a possible new alliance in the automobile industry, Toyota and Suzuki said on Wednesday that they were discussing a wide-ranging business partnership.
The manufacturers, both Japanese, were vague about what might happen, including whether there could be a capital tie-up. A merger, even a partial one, would effectively bring Suzuki into the orbit of the much larger Toyota, the world’s biggest automaker.
That would instantly give Toyota a major presence in India, a huge though still relatively poor car market where Suzuki is the leading manufacturer through its Maruti Suzuki affiliate.
Suzuki, which specializes in small cars, would benefit from Toyota’s scale and resources — increasingly crucial to the development of new technologies, including self-driving cars and battery-powered motors.
Toyota and Suzuki said in a news release that they had “agreed to start exploring ideas that are directed towards a business partnership.”
Executives planned to hold a joint news conference later on Wednesday.
Suzuki has worked with higher-volume producers before. General Motors owned part of the company for nearly three decades until G.M.’s near collapse during the global financial crisis prompted it to sell its remaining Suzuki shares in 2008.
Suzuki then turned to Volkswagen, which bought a 20 percent stake in Suzuki in 2009. But the alliance unraveled acrimoniously less than two years later when Volkswagen passed over Suzuki to buy small-car engines from Fiat. Suzuki said the deal violated their partnership.
Toyota has generally avoided splashy acquisitions and global alliances, but it has been quietly strengthening its hold over other Japanese carmakers. This year it took over its longtime affiliate Daihatsu, a minicar maker whose products compete directly with Suzuki’s. In 2008 Toyota increased its stake in the parent company of Subaru, Fuji Heavy Industries, to 16.5 percent. Toyota and Subaru have cooperated on production and car design, including the production of a small sports car, sold as the Toyota 86 and Subaru BRZ.