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Tesla Plans For Global Growth

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On: Mon, Nov 15, 2010 at 4:33PM | By: Sherry Christiansen

Tesla Plans For Global Growth

Elon Musk, CEO of electric sports car maker Tesla Motors Inc., said Friday that he expects Japan to become the company's largest market outside of the U.S. Musk also predicted that the niche luxury auto maker's U.S. customer base will expand steadily overseas, and the goal is that sales will be evenly split between the U.S., Europe, and Asia.

"We do believe Japan will be our No. 2 country in terms of sales, over time," Musk said, speaking at a joint press conference with the CEO of Toyota Motor Corp. "Japan is a key market for the kind of product we produce," he added. The first Asian Tesla showroom was opened in Tokyo as Musk announced plans to enter the European market with dealerships in Paris, London, and Monaco.

Tesla has sold 1,500 of its $100,000 Roadsters that debuted this year, and it plans to launch a midsize sports sedan for 2012. Two of Tesla’s major shareholders are Panasonic Corp. and Toyota Motor Corp., which offers strong ties to the Palo Alto, California automaker in the Japanese auto market. Toyota invested $50 million in Tesla and plans to fork over another $60 million for Tesla to build an all-electric RAV4 SUV using Tesla’s battery technology, and Panasonic, which provides battery cells for Tesla’s all-electric cars, invested another $30 million earlier this month.

Commercial sales of the all-electric RAV4 will begin in 2012, but no official word has been reported regarding whether there will be mass production of Toyota’s first all-electric SUV. Some analysts say that Toyota plans to sell its own, independently developed electric vehicle in the U.S. from 2012.

“The decision at the end of the day is Toyota’s,” Musk said. “But there’s a good chance we will do final assembly of the initial fleet of RAV4 EVs at NUMMI”

Akio Toyoda, president of Toyota, said that an ultra mini-car is being developed independent of Tesla, based on its British and Japanese market iQ model. "In Japan, I think customers are probably saying they would use electric vehicles to commute short distances, so we are considering the iQ-based EV," Toyoda said.

Musk presented a limited-edition Tesla Roadster 2.5 with a custom "twilight red" paint job to Toyoda to “help cement the recent alliance between the world’s largest automaker and one of its smallest,” according to Automotive News.com.

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