Daimler, Mercedes-Benz’s parent company, was once very close to Tesla and Elon Musk even said that the German automaker “saved” the startup with its investment back in 2009.
They have since grown apart as Tesla became a disruptor in the premium car space and Mercedes-Benz wants to go electric with its own EQ subbrand.
But Daimler CEO now says that they are still open to working with Tesla again.
Back in 2009, Daimler invested $50 million for roughly 9% of Tesla’s stocks.
The investment came amidst the financial crisis, which hit automakers quite hard and Musk later admitted that Tesla would have likely gone under if it wasn’t for the investment.
The German automaker also contracted Tesla to supply electric powertrains for Smart cars and the Mercedes B-Class.
For a while, it looked like the two companies were deeply linked together as Daimler was a significant stakeholder and Tesla was helping them produce electric vehicles.
But that ended in 2014 when Daimler stopped its powertrain supply contract with Tesla and ended up selling its stake in the company for $780 million – a healthy profit on a $50 million investment.
Of course, Tesla’s stock is now worth a lot more and CEO Dieter Zetsche was asked this week if he ever regretted selling the company’s stake in Tesla.
He responded (via Polish newspaper Rzeczpospolita):
“We got rid of the action and I did not regret it for a moment. But this does not exclude cooperation in the future.“
Zetsche added that they don’t plan to buy shares again and they prefer to have Tesla as a competitor.
Toyota also had a stake in Tesla and a similar electric powertrain supply deal with the company, but it ended up cutting its last tie with Tesla in 2017 as it launched its own electric car effort.
When both Daimler and Toyota cut ties with Tesla, it looked like it was for good.
Tesla had gradually become an important player and the automakers started to see it as a competitor.
But in 2014, Musk seemed hopeful 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.”
While we haven’t head from Toyota since, but another collaboration between Tesla and Daimler would be interesting.
I don’t think another electric powertrain supply deal is in the cards. Tesla did that at a different time for the company and now they need the manufacturing capacity for their own cars.
But there are plenty of other things on which they could work together.
EV charging infrastructure is probably the most important one. Tesla has often talked about how they would be open to sharing their Supercharger network.
In Europe, Daimler has invested in Ionity for charging, but I think there’s still plenty of room for deals and collaboration in the industry at this level.
What do you think? Let us know in the comment section below.