Japan's Toyota Motor Corp. (search) said Monday that it was willing to discuss sharing its hybrid vehicle technology with rivals, including U.S. automaker General Motors Corp. (GM) But the two automakers denied they were already in talks.

"If another company — not just GM but other automakers too — were to express an interest in the technology, we would not turn that down. We would be willing to open discussions," Toyota Chairman Hiroshi Okuda (search) was quoted by Toyota spokesman Tomomi Imai as saying.

Okuda's comments follow GM's denial Sunday of an online news report, which said the two automakers were in talks about a possible technology-sharing pact that could result in a quicker, wider offering of hybrid vehicles.

Imai also denied that Toyota and GM were already in talks.

Toyota and rival Japanese automaker, Honda Motor Co. (search), dominate the expanding market for fuel-efficient hybrid vehicles, which run on a combination of electricity and gasoline.

In December, GM (search) and DaimlerChrysler AG (DCX) said they were teaming up to develop fuel-saving hybrid engines in hopes of cashing in on that market.

GM has been losing sales in the U.S. to Toyota and other Asian rivals and has faced enormous health care and post-retirement liabilities.

The report posted over the weekend on The Wall Street Journal's online site said details of the discussions were unclear but it said GM chairman and chief executive Rick Wagoner (search) was planning to head to Japan this month to meet with top Toyota officials.

Scott Fosgard, GM's spokesman for advanced technology, told The Associated Press on Sunday that Wagoner planned a visit this month to the 2005 World Expo in Aichi, where Toyota is based. But he said it was a brief visit to the fair and had nothing to do with talks with Toyota.

"It's a short in-and-out trip," Fosgard said. He also denied anyone else at GM was holding such talks.

GM has been losing sales in the U.S. to Toyota and other Asian rivals and has faced enormous health care and post-retirement liabilities.

On Thursday, Standard & Poor's Ratings Services cut its corporate credit ratings to junk status for both GM and Ford Motor Co. (F), a big blow that will increase borrowing costs and limit fund-raising options for the nation's two biggest automakers. The cuts were largely because of increasing concern about the two companies' dependency on big SUVs for profits.

GM has shed little light into how it plans to turn around its fortunes. In a brief statement after Standard & Poor's knocked GM's $291 billion in debt to below investment grade, the company said it was "firmly committed to improving its performance as quickly as possible."