Tesla's independent development of electric cars is heading into the mainstream following the announcement that Toyota is to take a $50m stake in the Palo Alto, California, company.
Tesla will build electric cars in Fremont, California, at the former NUMMI (New United Motor Manufacturing Inc) plant, run as a joint venture between Toyota and GM from 1984 to 2010.
“I sensed the great potential of Tesla’s technology and was impressed by its dedication to monozukuri [Toyota’s approach to manufacturing],” said TMC President Akio Toyoda. “Through this partnership, by working together with a venture business such as Tesla, Toyota would like to learn from the challenging spirit, quick decision-making, and flexibility that Tesla has.”
Tesla CEO Elon Musk said: “It is an honour and a powerful endorsement of our technology that Toyota would choose to invest in and partner with Tesla. We look forward to learning and benefiting from Toyota’s legendary engineering, manufacturing, and production expertise.”
Toyota, which has built around 2.5 million hybrids since the first Prius was unveiled in 1997, has recently moved in plug-in hybrids and plans to introduce electric vehicles (EVs) by 2012.
Tesla has delivered more than 1000 Roadsters to customers in North America, Europe and Asia, but as a small independent company it would never be likely to build EVs in large enough numbers to bring to costs down to mainstream levels. With Toyota on board, all that is likely to change.