Questions answered: Live-blogging the Tesla-Toyota press conference

Toyota-Tesla press conference, Palo Alto, California, on May 20, 2010

Toyota-Tesla press conference, Palo Alto, California, on May 20, 2010

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We’re here at Tesla’s new headquarters in Palo Alto, Calif. live-blogging the announcement of a strategic partnership between Tesla Motors and Toyota. Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk, Toyota President and CEO Akio Toyoda and California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger are on stage.

Elon Musk: This is one of the most exciting days in Tesla history as we are announcing this historic partnership. This consists of three major areas: Toyota is making a major investment in Tesla, we will be purchasing the NUMMI plant and making the Model S and other cars there, and finally we will create some electric vehicles together. It’s a great honor for Tesla to be working with Toyota, a company I have long admired. It’s a great honor.

Akio Toyoda, CEO of Toyota: We agreed to the following terms. We will invest in Tesla. I have been told Tesla has agreed to purchase part of the land owned by NUMMI. It will produce electric vehicles there. I myself spent time at NUMMI and learned much about working in America there, so I feel a sense of attachment. I am extremely happy that the DNA of carmaking that NUMMI developed over 25 years will live on in the industry of the future. I would like to thank Mr. Musk and all the people at Tesla, the governor, and the state of California that made the agreement possible.

During my visit here this spring Mr. Musk gave me the opportunity to drive one of Tesla’s vehicles. Not only was I impressed by the technology. I felt the wind, the wind of the future. Toyota was also born as a venture business and grew over the year. [We] hope to recall that venture business spirit. Since taking office last June, I have raised the topic of carmarking for the next 100 years and the need to depend less on oil. Toyota is enhancing its environmental technology and [will] further participate in new and emerging industries such as electric vehicles and Smart Grid. [We] hope to continue to be a good global citizen in the U.S.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger: Great to have you hear, Akio. We love his cars that he’s producing. We love our cars here in California, but we also love equally the environment, and we love to protect our coastline, our ocean and our sky. The environment is very important, which is why we passed legislation like AB 32 to roll back greenhouse gases and the new standard for renewable energy and the green building initiative. When we passed those laws we felt a certain resistance, but now more companies are coming on board — particularly auto manufacturers. California has been sued by every car manufacturer you can think of — not Tesla of course. But we didn’t pull back, we stayed on course. All of these new companies invest in California because we stay the course.

Toyota is a very admirable company. Let’s not forget the Prius — a car that goes more than 50 miles a gallon, truly revolutionary. Here we have Tesla, proving you can do something very sexy looking that goes from 0 to 60 in less than 3.9 seconds and is attractive and cost effective. Two companies building great cars coming together here. It’s going to be great for California — Toyota is investing $50 million in this great company they are both expressing confidence in each other. This new partnership will create 1,000 new jobs. I can’t tell you how much this means to California with our 12.5 percent unemployment rate.

Because the NUMMI plant was closed last month, thousands of workers were laid off, and now we can bring them back because of this partnership. They could have gone anywhere else in America, but they stayed here because of the tax incentives, and financially it worked out. I want to recognize Treasurer Lockyer for sitting down with us and recognizing that there is money there that the Treasurer has that most people don’t know about. He looked and he found things. This is someone going beyond their regular duties. I appreciate the regulators who really work on the tax incentives. There are some politicians still calling these “tax loopholes” — but they are incentives that are putting people to work, and they are working.

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