Mercedes sells stake in Tesla

Mercedes’s parent company Daimler AG has sold its stake in electric car maker Tesla Motors Inc. Daimler held a 3.9 per cent share of Tesla, which it sold on for $780 million.

Daimler bought into Tesla in 2009, when the company was still privately owned. A technology sharing deal produced the all-electric B-Class already on sale in the US and shortly to arrive in Europe.

Since development of the B-Class started, Mercedes has switched its attention towards plug-in hybrids, rather than pure electric cars – it plans to add ten to the range by 2017. And Tesla CEO, Elon Musk, announced earlier this year that the company’s technological innovations would be made freely available.

As such, Daimler no longer needs to be financially tied to Tesla to gain access to that technology. That Tesla has grown into a genuine competitor to Mercedes – the Model S outsells Merc’s own S-Class in several markets – was a likely factor in the sale, as well.

Toyota maintains a 2.4 per cent stake in Tesla, having co-developed an electrically-powered RAV4, which didn’t last very long. Toyota is now focusing on fuel cell vehicles – the first of which is due to go on sale in Europe next year – a technology Musk has dismissed. Nevertheless, the partnership may resume in future.

Daimler will continue to buy components from Tesla, but the relationship between the two companies will go no further. Incidentally, Daimler originally invested $50 million in Tesla…

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