Tesla Motors Inc. may partner with Toyota Motor Corp. again in the future, chief executive Elon Musk said Monday during a visit to Tokyo.
“If you look out maybe two or three years from now, I would not be surprised if there was a significant deal with Toyota and Tesla,” Musk told reporters. While Tesla and Toyota have no definitive plans, Musk said he envisioned a larger project than their deal for the RAV4 electric vehicle.
The comments come as the two carmakers wind down sales of the jointly developed RAV4 EV after delivering only about 2,000 units since it went on sale two years ago. Since that project, both companies have taken separate paths, with Toyota now preparing to sell its first fuel-cell vehicle, a technology Musk has ridiculed.
Toyota had no comment on Musk’s remarks, spokesman Ryo Sakai said.
While people with knowledge of the matter have told Bloomberg News that the RAV4 EV project was marred by clashes between engineers, Musk said Monday that Tesla has “a very good relationship with Toyota.”
After having panned hydrogen-powered cars as “fool cells” in the past, he told reporters Monday at an event marking the start of Model S deliveries in Japan that there was some value in experimenting with other technologies.
At an annual shareholders’ meeting in June, Musk, 43, cited a squeeze in battery pack supplies as one reason why Palo Alto, California-based Tesla and Toyota would take a year or two before making any plans to build another vehicle together. Tesla last week selected Nevada as the site for a “gigafactory” to produce the most lithium-ion car batteries in the world.
Tesla is courting Panasonic Corp., another Japanese company and shareholder, to invest in the factory to supply cheaper batteries and help transform the maker of the $71,000 Model S sedan into more of a mass-market manufacturer.
Musk Monday reiterated that he envisions Panasonic providing 30 percent to 40 percent of the investment needed for the factory. Tesla has estimated that the plant could cost as much as $5 billion by 2020. “We are probably pushing Panasonic faster than they would normally go,” Musk said. “I think it will turn out well for both companies.”
Panasonic spokeswoman Yayoi Watanabe declined to comment on Musk’s remarks, saying only that the company would be a major partner to Tesla.
“The speed at which Panasonic is making decisions is extremely impressive,” Musk said. “We really feel very honored that they would take a risk on Tesla.”