Advertisement

Tesla's New BFF (And Savior?) Is Mercedes-Benz

Follow John

2012 Tesla Model S - waiting for our 90-second ride

2012 Tesla Model S - waiting for our 90-second ride

Enlarge Photo

We're hardly the first site to raise questions about Tesla Motors and the challenges it faces. But now another piece of the puzzle has fallen into place: Daimler AG has purchased "nearly 10 percent" of the Silicon Valley electric-car startup.

That gives Tesla access to the Mercedes-Benz parts bin, which could help it get the promised 2012 Tesla Model S electric sports sedan launched.

The big question that will determine Tesla's future: What did Daimler pay for its stake? Unlike previous Tesla funding events, no dollar figures were given for the new funding. The only comment was that the stake was for "double digit millions".

That could mean anything from $10 million--which would be dire straits indeed--to $99 million, in which case the nascent car company would be valued at $1 billion.

Industry analysts say to launch a higher-volume sedan requires at least a few hundred million dollars. Tesla's finances are fairly opaque, but one former Tesla insider we contacted fears that the lack of a stated valuation means the number was on the low side. Only time will tell.

Batteries going both ways

Daimler and Tesla are hardly strangers. The two companies announced their first partnership at the 2009 Detroit Auto Show. Tesla agreed to supply batteries for 1,000 electric versions of the Smart ForTwo, to be tested in Germany and Italy.

Observers have long been skeptical that Tesla's complex liquid-cooled battery, which uses thousands of small commodity lithium-ion cells wired together in a dense network of sensors, connectors, and controllers, can be practically scaled up to produce tens of thousands of less expensive sedans a year.

Now it looks like the battery technology may flow in both directions.  Automotive News notes that CEO Elon Musk specifically cited the lithium-ion cell developed by Daimler's joint venture with Evonik, named Deutsche Accumotive GmbH, as being of interest to Tesla.

That cell is packaged in a pouch, rather than the cylindrical packaging of the commodity cells Tesla now uses, which gives additional flexibility in battery design and makes cooling much easier.

What goes up must come down

When Tesla unveiled its all-electric Roadster a couple of years ago, the company drew more media for a time than any other sports-car maker.

And there's no denying that the 2009 Tesla Roadster is hellacious fun to drive, despite questions over its range and degradation of its battery pack over the long term.

But after missed deadlines and executive turmoil, the tide seems to have turned. And inaccurate statements by CEO Elon Musk probably haven't helped. Today, skepticism runs rampant over the company's future, its funding, and its ability to launch the 2012 Tesla Model S four-door sports sedan it previewed in March.

We got a ride in that prototype last month, at a swanky Manhattan event where Tesla took deposits for the Model S and offered rides to select guests. For all of 90 seconds, it was smooth, quiet, fast, and luxurious.

Model S = CLS underneath?

But the prototype may not be quite as final as it appeared. The Daimler partnership will likely let the 2012 Tesla Model S incorporate a lot more Mercedes-Benz in it than the company told us a few weeks ago.

Tesla had offered fairly detailed specs for the new electric sedan at the preview, but executives later noted that the prototype could change considerably  in form and detail before it reached production.

Before the launch, we had asked Tesla about a story first suggested by Autoblog.nl suggesting that the running Model S prototype was built entirely on the understructure of a Mercedes-Benz CLS.


Advertisement
 
Follow Us

 

Have an opinion?

  • Posting indicates you have read this site's Privacy Policy and Terms of Use
  • Notify me when there are more comments
Comments (4)
  1. I want a Tesla so badly. Too bad i live in New York City where there is basically no where to charge a car. This is the only thing that makes me envious of Los Angeles.
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

  2. 1 of 3 posts I suspect that it means that Musk needed operating cash to keep the lights on and Daimler needed battery technology faster than they could develop internally. It also appears to materially lower the valuation of Tesla and dilute Musk's ownership (better to have something than 100% of nothing – I give him credit for recognizing that).
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

  3. 2 of 3 posts The amount of money received by Tesla would appear that it merely keeps the company gasping for life until someone takes the toy away from Musk and makes a real business out of Tesla. The funds do not appear enough to move the new model forward, which is estimated could take a couple of hundred million. Additionally, the start-up costs do not even appear to allow Tesla to address what is likely needed for Tesla to develop as an electric car company.
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

  4. 3 of 3 posts All of his post-Paypal ventures appear seriously flawed – they have high capital requirements for development and infrastructure. In my opinion, as someone outside the automobile industry, he really does not have a grip on what his money can buy.
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

 

Have an opinion? Join the conversation!

Advertisement

Find Green Cars

Go!
Advertisement

Advertisement

 
© 2014 Green Car Reports. All Rights Reserved. Green Car Reports is published by High Gear Media. Send us feedback. Stock photography by izmo, Inc.