TOKYO (AP) _ Toyota Motor Corp., Japan's largest automaker, announced Friday it will buy a majority stake in its affiliate, Daihatsu Motor Corp.

Toyota will pay about 37 billion yen ($259 million) to increase its share in Daihatsu from its current 34.5 percent to 51.2 percent, Toyota said in a statement.

It will be the first time a Japanese automaker has taken a majority stake in another domestic automobile manufacturer.

Toyota said that closer ties with Daihatsu will help the companies confront intensifying global competition and share technology in developing environment-friendly vehicles.

Toyota said it ``hopes to preserve the individuality'' of Daihatsu, which specializes in small, low-cost vehicles.

Earlier Friday, the Tokyo Stock Exchange suspended trading in shares of Daihatsu in order to verify reports that Toyota was increasing its stake in the smaller carmaker.

The Nihon Keizai Shimbun, Japan's leading financial daily, reported that Toyota is also likely to take a majority stake in Hino Motors Ltd., a truck maker in the Toyota group.