Suzuki Motor on Monday said that General Motors would sell 17% of its 20% stake in the Japanese automaker but would retain the remaining 3%.

Kyodo News noted that GM and the Japanese minicar manufacturer have been in a capital alliance since 1981 - the market value of the shares that GM holds is estimated at JPY270bn.

The news agency added that GM has been promoting plant closures and other restructuring measures as it has been losing US market share to foreign rivals due partly to sluggish sales of sport-utility vehicles and pickup trucks amid high fuel prices.

Last October, General Motors' head of research and development, Larry Burns, told the Associated Press that GN's partnerships with Isuzu and Suzuki remained solid despite GM's decision to end its alliance with Subaru maker Fuji Heavy Industries.

He said the alliances were strong, both as ways to share technology and to sell cars in Japan, following speculation that GM might also decide to drop its other Japan alliances.

"Those are very strong relationships," Burns said at the time, adding that Isuzu is important in diesel technology, and GM has a fuel-cell technology partnership with Suzuki.

GM's partnerships with Suzuki and Isuzu remain strong - executive