Tesla Motors and Toyota Motor Corp. have signed an agreement to develop an electric version of Toyota’s RAV4 sport utility vehicle that will be ready for the U.S. market in 2012. Prototypes will combine the RAV4 model with a Tesla electric powertrain. Tesla plans to produce and deliver a fleet of prototypes to Toyota for evaluation this year. In fact, the companies say that the first prototype already has been built and is now undergoing testing.
The companies first announced their intent to cooperate on the development of electric vehicles, parts, and production system and engineering support in May. Tesla hopes to learn and benefit from Toyota’s engineering, manufacturing, and production expertise, while Toyata aims to learn from Tesla’s electric-vehicle (EV) technology and corporate structure and culture. To close the deal, Toyota will purchase $50 million of Tesla’s common stock issued in a private placement to close immediately subsequent to the closing of Tesla’s currently planned initial public offering.
“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,” said Toyota president Akio Toyoda. “Decades ago, Toyota was also born as a venture business. By partnering with Tesla, my hope is that all Toyota employees will recall that ‘venture business spirit’ and take on the challenges of the future.”
“Toyota is a company founded on innovation, quality, and commitment to sustainable mobility. It is an honor and a powerful endorsement of our technology that Toyota would choose to invest in and partner with Tesla,” said Tesla CEO and cofounder Elon Musk. “We look forward to learning and benefiting from Toyota’s legendary engineering, manufacturing, and production expertise.”
Toyota introduced its first-generation Prius hybrid vehicle in 1997 and has since produced about 2.5 million hybrids. Late last year, the company started leasing Prius plug-in hybrids, which can be charged using an external power source such as a household electric outlet. Toyota plans on introducing EVs into the market by 2012.
Tesla Motors has delivered more than 1000 of its plug-in electric Roadsters to customers in North America, Europe, and Asia since the car was first released in 2008. The company designs and manufactures EVs and EV powertrain components and is the only automaker in the U.S. that builds and sells highway-capable EVs in serial production. It is currently working on its Model S sedan, with anticipated deliveries in 2012.