Toyota and BMW are expanding their technical tie-up to include joint development of hydrogen fuel cells, sports cars, electric powertrains and lightweight technologies.

The partners say each side brings strength to their new goals.

"Toyota is strong in environmentally friendly hybrids and fuel cells," says Toyota President Akio Toyoda, via a webcast from Munich, Germany, during the announcement today. "I'm confident these technologies will be useful to BMW. On the other hand, I believe BMW's strength is developing sports cars."

Toyoda, a noted driving enthusiast who has driven cars at Germany's famed Nurburgring track numerous times, says he looks forward to the two sides sharing information out on the track, noting "the attractive and emotional products we plan cannot be born in conference rooms.”

Few details are available regarding the proposed sports car, although Toyoda hints it will be "environmentally friendly," suggesting an alternative powertrain model is targeted by the auto makers.

There will be no exchange of shares in the partners’ latest deal, which follows a December pact that calls for BMW to supply Toyota with diesel engines in Europe from 2014 and a March agreement to jointly research advanced lithium-ion batteries.

"We are not coming together to form capital ties; we are joining hands because we want to make ever better cars," Toyoda says during the webcast, along with Norbert Reithofer, BMW chairman of the board of management who also was present.

Maintaining independence is beneficial to the auto makers, he adds, allowing each the "freedom to act and think for the long term."

While each auto maker has pursued its own hydrogen fuel-cell technology, with Toyota planning to commercialize fuel-cell vehicles by 2015, the partners say they aim to jointly develop a new system.

Toyota and General Motors collaborated on hydrogen fuel-cell research at one time, and recent reports suggested BMW and GM planned to do the same, although talks are said to have ended.

The sports car collaboration with BMW includes the joint development of "architecture and components" on a forthcoming model, Toyota says.

Toyota and Subaru-maker Fuji Heavy Industries this year unveiled their jointly developed rear-wheel-drive sports car, the Toyota 86 and Subaru BRZ. The BRZ went on sale in the U.S. in May, and the Scion FR-S, Toyota's U.S. version of the 86, hits U.S. dealers this month.

Further details of the planned collaboration on powertrain electrification and lightweight technologies by Toyota and BMW were not revealed at today’s press conference.

However, BMW last year entered into a $100 million joint venture with SGL Carbon of Moses Lake, WA. A spokesman for the auto maker told WardsAuto in November that if the auto maker had not partnered with SGL, it would have required one-third of the world's production of carbon fiber for the tens of thousands of i3 and i8 electric vehicles it plans to build.

Toyota also is planning an EV. Its electrified RAV4 cross/utility vehicle is going on limited sale this year in the U.S. BMW will launch its sub-brand i range starting in 2013.

But despite pursuing mass electrification with the i series and offering hybrid versions of its stalwart models, the German luxury brand, best known for its high-powered engines, still needs to cut its fleet carbon emissions by about a third, to 101 g/km by 2020, Reuters reports.

Reithofer says strategic partnerships are an essential part of BMW’s strategy. The key components are that they be based on mutual trust and commitment, be win/win and that the premium character of BMW brands be protected.

"A passion for mobility is one of our defining features,” BMW’s Reithofer says. “It is in our genes. This is one of the things we share with Toyota, but there are other things as well. We share the same strategic vision of what the sustainable mobility of tomorrow could look like.

"The mobility of tomorrow will be different from what it is today. Changing customer preferences, urbanization, scarce resources and government regulation are megatrends, creating a variety of different challenges. I believe this is the most decisive moment our industry has ever faced.”

cschweinsberg@wardsauto.com