Tesla and Mercedes-Benz have been holding ‘talks’ about a possible new collaboration, according to comments made by Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche this week.
The idea first came up when Zetsche said last year that Mercedes-Benz is open to working with Tesla again.
A few weeks later, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said that he would reach out to Daimler to propose a possible collaboration on an electric version of the Sprinter van.
After Musk’s comment, Jerome Guillen, Tesla’s President of Automotive and a former Daimler executive, reached out to the German automaker in a “series of phone calls”, according to Zetsche who added (via Automotive News):
“These talks are happening. […] the outcome is open.”
The CEO also mentioned that Tesla might be interested in vans to be used for its mobile service fleet.
Tesla was first using gas-powered vans for the fleet, but it has now been modifying Model S and Model X vehicles in order to make its mobile service electric.
Mercedes-Benz is working to bring an electric eSprinter van program to market this year, but it’s quite limited in range and Tesla made it sounds like they would like to collaborate on the project.
Tesla supplied the electric powertrains for the first generation electric Smart cars and electric Mercedes-Benz B-Class.
But that was when Daimler was actually a Tesla shareholder.
Back in 2009, Daimler invested $50 million for roughly 9% of Tesla’s stock.
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.
It 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.
I don’t know where this is going anymore.
At first, it sounded like Elon wanted to work with Mercedes-Benz on an electric Sprinter van, but I don’t think he was aware that Daimler was already working on that.
While they could go back to partner on making electric vehicles like they did with the electric smart cars and the Mercedes B-Class Electric, I don’t think that Daimler would go into a vehicle program partnership with Tesla the same way they did before.
Daimler has now their own next-generation electric powertrain and it would be strange for them to use Tesla’s in a vehicle program instead of their own. It would be admitting that Tesla’s is better.
Now Zetsche makes it sound like Tesla was more inquiring about buying vans from them – though I doubt that those eSprinters with less than 100 miles of range would work for Tesla’s service fleet.
Wouldn’t it be funny if Tesla actually ends up purchasing Sprinter gliders from Daimler and installs their own electric powertrains for their service fleet and the vehicle ends being a lot more practical than Mercedes-Benz’s own production eSprinter?
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