It’s no secret that Toyota’s influx of cash into Tesla probably saved the struggling electric automaker. In return, Tesla gets to build bland but marketable electric RAV-4s, while continuing with the development of their Model S sedan. Now battery maker and electronics giant Panasonic has stepped up to the table, offering Tesla $30 million in investment dollars. What does Panasonic get out of the deal, aside from shares of Tesla stock? In exchange, Tesla promises to use Panasonic batteries in their battery packs, and will give Panasonic preferential treatment over other battery suppliers.
I see it as a win-win for both companies. Panasonic gets the benefit of association with perhaps the world’s leading authority on EV manufacturing. Tesla gets the benefit of Panasonic’s extensive R&D into battery development and production. Together, their stated goal is to reduce the cost of EV batteries, ultimately driving down the cost of electric vehicles to be on parity with their internal combustion counterparts.
I’m not ready to dump cash into Tesla stock just yet, but I see this as a positive sign. If they can convince me that the Model S will eventually come to market (or even if they’re making progress on its development), I’d feel better about their long term viability as an automaker. The worst thing that could happen is for Tesla to be absorbed by Toyota. The world already has enough boring electric cars, but we need some to be passionate about. If Tesla can’t build them, nobody can.