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Mercedes-Benz To Do More Projects With Tesla, Countering BMW i3?

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2014 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Electric Drive

2014 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Electric Drive

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Look closely enough at the Smart Fortwo Electric Drive, and there's probably a little 'Tesla Motors' sticker hiding within its drivetrain.

Likewise, eagle-eyed car-buyers may spot the occasional Mercedes-Benz interior component in the Tesla Model S. This curious cross-pollination is a result of collaborations between Tesla and Mercedes-Benz parent company Daimler--and the latter now wants to expand its involvement with the former.

Speaking at a press conference in New York, Daimler's chief financial officer Bodo Uebber said Daimler intends to keep its 4.3 percent stake in Tesla, Bloomberg reports. He added, "we should look at more cooperation so we like the stake."

The message seems a little lost in translation, but the bottom line is that Daimler wants more from its 4.3 percent, and further collaborations with Tesla are first on the menu.

There's more to this than making the most of its stake in Tesla, too. Expertise is as important as investment here, as Daimler tries to catch up with German rival BMW in the electric vehicle market.

BMW's 'i' brand, spearheaded by the i3 city car and i8 plug-in hybrid sports car, has created quite a buzz in the last couple of months, launching both vehicles and taking over 8,000 orders for the i3.

While Mercedes-Benz has been selling electric vehicles for longer than BMW--the Smart Electric Drive is now in its third generation, for example--BMW's project has more momentum behind it.

Alongside the Smart, Mercedes' only other electric model is the expensive and exclusive SLS AMG Electric Drive supercar, while an electric version of the B-Class hatchback is also on the way. The latter will also use Tesla technology, but lacks the bespoke nature of BMW's competing i3. Mercedes sees Tesla as an important part of its future strategy, particularly as it looks at more applications for electrified vehicles.

It isn't clear what sort of vehicles future collaboration will produce. Mercedes told us at the Geneva Motor Show a few years back that electricity would be the preserve of its smaller vehicles, with hydrogen and hybrids dominating further up--but since then, its B-Class fuel-cell car has morphed into a battery electric vehicle, so nothing is certain.

If anyone can shake life into Daimler's electric vehicles though, it's Tesla--and further collaborations could prove beneficial for both companies.

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