TOKYO — Slowly but surely the world's economic mixmaster has begun blending Japan's vehicle makers into fewer “independents.” Nominally there are still 11, compared with two indigenous producers in the U.S. and nine in Europe, but the Japanese numbers have long been misleading, skewed by “group” affiliates. What would have been automotive divisions in the U.S. were semi-independent companies here. Now, however, the ties are being strengthened — or broken. Toyota Motor Corp., Japan's ...

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