Daimler buys into Tesla to electrify Smart

German automotive giant Daimler has invested in electric car company Tesla Motors and plans to use Tesla's battery packs in an electric version of its Smart ForTwo city car due later this year.

German automotive giant Daimler has invested in electric car company Tesla Motors and plans to use Tesla's battery packs in an electric version of its Smart ForTwo city car due later this year.

The Tesla Roadster (left) and "electric drive" Smart (right).
(Credit: Daimler)

At a Tuesday press conference held at the Daimler museum in Stuttgart, Germany, Tesla CEO Elon Musk and Daimler management board member Thomas Weber said the contract between the two companies calls for joint collaboration on the Smart electric car and future models.

Daimler has invested a "double-digit million-dollar sum" to acquire about a 10 per cent stake in California-based Tesla, Weber said. "We are about to combine the best of the old and new school," Weber said during a press conference. "We are both deeply convinced that electric powertrains will play a major role in sustainability mobility."

The two companies last year announced that Tesla would supply the lithium-ion battery for the electric Smart ForTwo. Daimler plans to begin building and testing up to 1000 electric Smarts this year and to mass produce the vehicle in 2012, Weber said.

Daimler, which has been working on electric-vehicle technology since the 1970s, chose to partner and invest in Tesla to help Daimler bring cars to market quickly, Weber added. "The first priority was to find the quickest and most straightforward solution," he said.

The technical collaboration calls for Tesla to supply battery packs and electric powertrain, and for Daimler to offer auto manufacturing and design expertise in a range of areas, such as safety and mass production, Musk said during the press conference.

"We look forward to future areas [of collaboration]," Musk said. "Smart is just the beginning."

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