A consortium headed by tyre firm Bridgestone is believed to be ahead in the race to acquire Kwik-Fit, the car-repair company.
Kwik-Fit has used TV advertising to attract new customers
The group - also including Mitsubishi Corporation - is competing against five private equity firms, according to the Financial Times.
Rival bidders include Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, BC Partners and JP Morgan.
Kwik-Fit's current owner, private equity firm CVC Capital, could sell it for up to £1bn ($1.8bn), analysts said.
On the market
CVC, which owns more than 70% of Kwik-Fit, bought it from Ford in 2002 for £350m but revealed in April that it was interested in selling the business.
Edinburgh-based Kwik-Fit has more than 2,300 outlets and 11,000 employees across Europe. It generated turnover of £854m last year.
The FT said the Bridgestone-Mitsubishi team had been in London since last month working on its bid.
Kwik-Fit has changed hands twice since 1999
Mitsubishi sells Firestone tyres and is well known in the US but wants to increase its presence in Europe.
Other possible buyers include Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, the US-based corporate buyout firm which already owns German car parts firm ATU and US investment bank JP Morgan which owns IMO Car Wash, one of the world's largest car wash firms.
The other contenders are two financial consortia: PAI partners and Goldman Sachs; and Credit Suisse First Boston with Investcorp.
The FT reported that Michelin, the world's number two tyre firm and US retailer Wal-Mart had shown interest in Kwik-Fit but are now believed to have dropped out of the running.
Ford bought Kwik-Fit in 1999 for £1bn and still retains a 19% stake.
Under CVC's ownership, Kwik-Fit has closed some outlets and run a television advertising campaign to try and boost results.