More recent Tesla enthusiasts might not be aware that Tesla and Toyota used to have close ties. Back in 2010, Toyota invested $50 million in Tesla and they brokered a heavily discounted sale of the Nummi factory, which is now Tesla’s Fremont factory.
Tesla also used to supply the electric powertrain of the Toyota RAV4 EV up until 2014 when the program stopped. At that point, Toyota sold most of its Tesla shares for a healthy profit and this weekend, it confirmed that it sold all its remaining shares before the end of last year.
Toyota spokesman Ryo Sakai confirmed the news yesterday (via Reuters):
“Our development partnership with Tesla ended a while ago, and since there has not been any new developments on that front, we decided it was time to sell the remaining stake,”
They confirmed that they sold their last remaining shares last year just as they were announcing their own all-electric car program.
Due to its heavy investments in hydrogen fuel cells, Toyota fell behind almost every other automaker when it came to all-electric vehicle development.
They changed their strategy in November 2016, when the Japanese automaker announced that Akio Toyoda, the company’s CEO and grandson of founder Kiichiro Toyoda, is now President of a new ‘ EV Business Planning’ department that will oversee the launch of an all-electric vehicle by 2020.
Interestingly, when Toyota sold most of its Tesla shares in 2014, Tesla CEO Elon Musk was visiting Japan around the same time and he told local media that Tesla could partner with Toyota again in the future:
“I think that if you look out maybe two or three years from now, that I would not be surprised if there is a significant deal with Toyota. My best guess is that it would probably be something significant, maybe on a much higher volume level.”
It’s now “two or three years” later and it apparently didn’t happen. About 2,500 Rav4 EVs on the road are all that remain of Tesla’s partnership with Toyota today.
Tesla also had a similar partnership with Daimler, but it also ended last year and it’s not clear if Tesla would even want to embark on a similar venture with another automaker since it needs to focus its production capacity on the Model 3 launch. Though Musk definitely let the door open.