No one saw this coming. Thursday night in California, Toyota President Akio Toyoda, Tesla Motors co-founder Elon Musk and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger announced that not only is Toyota investing in Tesla but that the two companies will jointly develop future electric vehicles and build them at the recently shuttered NUMMI plant in Fremont, near San Francisco.
While the $50 million investment is relatively small for Toyota — and far smaller than the $465 million federal loan Tesla secured last year — it’s the sharing of technology between the two that is most interesting.
Tesla will use Toyota’s manufacturing expertise to get the NUMMI plant churning out Tesla’s next model — the $57,000 Model S sedan — but Toyota wants to get its feet wet in the EV market. While Toyota has been one of the forerunners in hybrid drivetrains, it has been slow to embrace EVs. Nissan will have its Leaf EV on sale later this year, and Chevy will start selling its extended-range EV in the fall. Ford has already announced that it will have an EV Focus out sometime in 2011.
The NUMMI plant will employ 1,000 people by the time production of the Model S begins in 2012, but Musk hopes for 10,000, including suppliers.
Toyota Invests in Tesla to Help Reopen Calif. Plant (Detroit News)