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Critics are already labeling the relationship a conflict of interest before full details of the collaboration have surfaced.

The Environmental Protection Agency has reportedly invited Toyota to help with an internal review of its management structure.

The collaborative effort was disclosed as a side note when EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt answered a congressman's inquiry regarding the agency's methods for analyzing its operations to determine how many staff are required. No workload analysis is said to have been conducted for several decades.

"We are actually partnering with Toyota to begin a lean process at the agency to evaluate management practices," Pruitt responded, according to HuffPost.

Toyota's specific role in the project has not been publicly outlined in full detail. It has nonetheless sparked conflict-of-interest concerns, however, as the Japanese automaker is subject to emissions regulations that are enforced by the agency.

Toyota's head of US operations, Jack Hollis, recently expressed doubt that the industry would be able to reach the EPA's fuel-efficiency targets amid low gasoline prices and uncertainty surrounding government purchase incentives for zero-emissions vehicles.

"Right now, I can't tell you how we are going to get there," he said at a recent automotive press gathering, as quoted by Forbes.

President Donald Trump has called for a review of the fuel-economy standards. Any changes would presumably be tied to a public-comment period, allowing Toyota and other stakeholders to voice opinions that would be considered before finalizing a new plan.

Toyota is credited with developing a 'lean' manufacturing model that minimizes waste and maximizes productivity. The company's steady climb to become the world's top automaker has inspired many other industries to adopt similar principles.