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Toyota-Tesla Partnership a Thing of the Past, Spokeswoman Confirms

  • William Van-Lear Black
  • July 22, 2017
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An electric RAV4 concept designed by Toyota & Tesla

A Toyota spokeswoman said Monday the company sold off its shares in American automaker Tesla last year, CNN’s Alec Macfarlane reports.

Toyota purchased a stake in Tesla as part of a cooperation agreement the two companies formed in May 2010. Back then, Tesla sold just one model, the avant-garde Roadster. In total, 2400 Roadsters were sold. So, Toyota and Tesla were far from competitors, and Toyota stood to benefit from some of the electric parts Tesla was developing. Soon after the pact was forged, Toyota began production of a RAV4 model that incorporated the Tesla powertrain used in the Roadster. The companies allegedly signed a contract to produce electric cars together.

But that contract expired in 2014, according to the aforementioned spokeswoman, and the companies’ relationship, Macfarlane says, was frayed by culture clashes.

In 2010, Toyota bought $50 million worth of Tesla stock just before the latter company went public. By 2016, Tesla’s shares were worth more than ten times their IPO price. As of March of that year, Toyota owned  2.3 million Tesla shares worth a total of $538 million.

The spokeswoman did not disclose the exact time at which Toyota sold off its Tesla stake, nor the price for which said stake was sold, but it stands to reason Toyota made a considerable profit on its investment in Tesla.

But, Tesla’s stock continues to soar. Since January 3rd, the company’s share price has risen $112.93 (52%), from $216.99 to $329.92. Toyota appears to have jumped off the train prematurely.

Tesla’s success in the market this year, though, comes in response to the company’s plans to ramp up production and begin offering mass market vehicles like the Model 3. Tesla is transitioning from a little niche enterprise to a powerful force in the auto industry. As such, it is becoming one of Toyota’s most formidable competitors.

“Tesla has developed beyond being a test bed for interesting electric vehicle technologies to becoming a full-fledged competitor of traditional automakers in the electric vehicle space,” James Chao, Asia-Pacific managing director for consultancy IHS Automotive told Macfarlane. “It makes sense that Toyota is distancing themselves from Tesla.”

Competition between Tesla and Toyota is intensifying further as the Japanese automaker, along with a host of its fellow traditional car manufacturers, prepares to increase its presence in the electric car market. In November 2016, Toyota announced plans to create an “in-house venture company responsible for developing electric vehicles (EVs).”

“Differing energy and infrastructure issues around the world and the rapid strengthening of regulations aimed at increasing the use of zero-emission vehicles have heightened the need for product lineups that can respond to various situations,” Toyota said in the statement. “As such…TMC has decided to create a structure that will allow it to commercialize EVs at an early stage, as an alternative means of achieving zero emissions.”

The “strengthening of regulations” has continued in 2017, with France, India, and Norway, among others, pledging to take immense strides to encourage the production of environmentally friendly vehicles.

Toyota said in its statement that it has placed a particular emphasis on the development of fuel cell vehicles as alternatives to gas powered cars. The statement claims such vehicles, whose fuel cells generate power from oxygen and compressed hydrogen, are—unlike today’s battery powered EVs— “on par with that of current gasoline-powered vehicles” in terms of “cruising range, fueling times, and other aspects.”

Toyota said it would continue its “promotion of FCVs,” but also hinted at plans to expand its endeavors toward electric vehicles in other directions.

In a business atmosphere in which friends become enemies and enemies become friends, Toyota and Tesla have drifted apart. Competition between the two could provide consumers with a number of diverse options in the electric car market.

Featured image via Wikimedia Commons

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I'm Will Black. Pleased to meet you. In case you haven't noticed, there’s a lot happening on this 8,000-mile-wide sphere we’re all stuck on together. There’s plenty going on in each 22.5 inch wide sphere that rests upon a human being’s shoulders, too. I’ve heard every broken record that plays in my own personal 22.5’’ sphere. Writing, for me, is an opportunity to smooth over the ticks and pops on those records, and an effort to understand and lend expression to the myriad phenomena going on in everybody else’s little sphere. If I do that work properly, our ride through space on this big blue sphere should be a little more worthwhile, or at least a little more tolerable.

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