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Toyota Buys Into Tesla Motors

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On: Sun, May 23, 2010 at 10:10AM | By: John Welch


Toyota Buys Into Tesla Motors

Akio Toyoda is determined to erase Toyota's staid, Big Brotherish reputation. First mandating more passion be injected into Toyota's marginally boring line-up, now he is doing his best to instill a entrepreneurial spirit into Toyota's corporate philosophy. By dropping $50 million into Tesla Motors, Toyoda has found a use for the dormant NUMMI plant, as well as provided his company with some much needed positive motivation.

“I’ve felt an infinite possibility about Tesla’s technology,” said Toyoda, chief executive officer of Toyota, founded by his grandfather. “By partnering with Tesla, my hope is that all Toyota employees will recall that ‘venture business’ spirit.”

For Tesla, this is the second $50 million investment received in as many years. Diamler bought into Tesla in 2009, though they have reduced their stake since. The Toyota-Tesla partnership doesn’t impede Daimler’s cooperation with the California automaker, said Brigitte Bertram, a Daimler spokeswoman. Tesla is supplying Diamler with battery packs for a test fleet of electric Smart minicars.

The most important news here is the revival of the NUMMI plant in California, a joint venture between Toyota and GM for nearly 25 years. NUMMI produced the Toyota Matrix/Pontiac Vibe twins most recently, but fell on hard times after 2008. The death of Pontiac and Toyota's moving Matrix production to Japan left NUMMI with little to do. First GM, then Toyota pulled out of the plant, leaving all of its 4,700 employees looking for work.

Though not rehiring that much man power right away, Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, has a comprehensive plan for providing as many jobs as possible. Tesla has hired back about 90 former NUMMI workers and expects to add about 50 a month, Musk said. The plant’s restart “is welcome news for the state’s economy and workers after the closing of this highly productive plant,” UAW President Ron Gettelfinger said in a statement.

Toyota plans to use Tesla's technology to produce short-range plug-in Hybrids, similar to the Chevrolet Volt. The first plug-in Prius should turn a wheel in the fall of 2012.





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