According to a report, Suzuki isn’t very pleased with Volkswagen’s attitude in the partnership the two companies formed at the end of 2009. The tie-up was planned to give Wolfsburg an inside track into Suzuki’s small-car technology, and for Suzuki to access VW’s hybrid and a host of next-gen tech that it had no means financially to develop on its own.

Suzuki’s CEO Osamu Suzuki had insisted back then that the alliance would be formed on an equal basis, limiting VW’s stake in the Japanese automaker to 19.9% and stating it would pay the equivalent value to buy VW’s shares.

Now, cracks in the relationship have come about. Reuters reports that the Japanese automaker isn’t chuffed by its German partner’s claim that it could wield great influence over Suzuki’s management, something that was stated in VW’s annual report to shareholders, no less.

Suzuki’s executive vice-president Yasuhito Harayama told reporters in Japan just who is in charge of Suzuki’s relations with VW. “It was made very clear when we tied up with Volkswagen that we did not want to become consolidated, and that we would remain independent,” he said.

“We feel we need to return to the starting point, including over the ownership ratio. The understanding that we are independent companies, and equal partners, is the absolute prerequisite in pursuing any specific cooperation.”

Harayama added that Suzuki will continue to pursue operational relationships with a wide range of companies, while holding back on any projects with VW until the two parties are able to reaffirm their initial understanding. “Right now, there is no specific joint development project going on with Volkswagen,” he stated.

Last month, Suzuki announced a deal to buy 1.6 litre diesel engines from Fiat, a deal that the company says proves it can do without VW.

Update: Further reports coming about say that Volkswagen, in response to Harayama’s comments, has said it would not encroach on Suzuki’s autonomy.

“Volkswagen and Suzuki are and will remain two independent companies. No increase of Volkswagen’s Suzuki stake has been agreed upon,” Hans Demant, who is in charge of the alliance at VW, told Reuters through comments provided by his spokesman,

The rift isn’t that trivial sounding. As an analyst puts it, “Japanese managers do not readily criticise publicly, so the fact that in this case they have shows that there really is a problem.”
Whether it means the end of a long-term working partnership between the two companies remains to be seen.