Toyota buys into TeslaJapanese giant allies with electric car specialist

21 May 2010

Tesla Model S and Roadster

Technology from Tesla's Model S saloon and Roadster will go into future Toyota models

Toyota is set to team up with US firm Tesla to build its own range of electric cars.

The Japanese firm has announced that alongside Tesla, which builds the £90,000 Roadster electric sports car, it aims to further electric car development and engineering to bring the technology into to the mainstream.

As part of the deal, Toyota has purchased $50m (£35m) in Tesla stock, while the California company will take on Toyota's recently closed Freemont factory, where the Corolla used to be built. It will use the plant, which has capacity to make 500,000 cars a year, to build the new Model S saloon.

The pairing is a bit of a mismatch in sizes: Toyota is the world's number one car producer, while Tesla has sold only 1,200 Roadsters since setting up in 2003. However, it is the first firm to successfully produce an electric car with a practical range (230 miles) in normal series production. It is also much-loved by environmentalists and includes celebrities such as George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Matt Damon among its customers. And it has a 'cool' factor that Toyota's current range lacks.

Until now, Toyota has not been involved in creating fully-electric cars, instead preferring to build hybrids like the Prius. It is now likely that it will produce a supermini to rival to the Nissan Leaf within the next five to 10 years.

On the collaboration, Toyota President Akio Toyoda.said: '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 and co-founder Elon Musk added: 'We look forward to learning and benefiting from Toyota's legendary engineering, manufacturing, and production expertise.'

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