Toyota announced on Oct. 24 that it has sold off part of its 2.4 percent stake in electric car company Tesla. The news comes hot on the heels of a similar announcement by Daimler AG, which said days ago that it has cashed in on its 3.9 percent stake in Tesla.
Toyota says its decision to divest part of its Tesla shares is "part of our process of regularly reviewing our investment portfolio." The Japanese automaker, one of the few car companies that helped save Tesla when it was struggling to make a mark with its critically acclaimed but unpopular Roadster in 2010, also says it is considering forging partnerships with the Silicon Valley car company in the future.
"We have a good working relationship with Tesla and will evaluate the feasibility of working together on future projects," says Toyota spokesperson Kayo Doi.
Toyota invested $50 million in Tesla in May 2010 ahead of the company's initial public offering. Data compiled by Bloomberg shows the company's investment totals up to 2.94 million shares or 2.9 percent of Tesla's stocks, with an indicated value of $690 million. Toyota did not specify how much of its shares it has decided to sell.
Part of the partnership was the joint development of an electric RAV4 sport utility vehicle, where Tesla supplied Toyota with the batteries. The agreement is set to end this year as Toyota nears its goal of selling 2,500 units and looks to other alternative technologies to power its future vehicles. Recently, Toyota executives were said to be working on hydrogen fuel cells, a technology ridiculed by Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who calls them "fool cells."
Musk, however, dropped hints of "a significant deal" with Toyota in the next two to three years during a visit to Tokyo last month. "We love working with Toyota," he said, although Toyota remained silent on Musk's comment.
"There was an expectation that it would be stimulating for a big organization such as Toyota to engage with a small and young company such as Tesla," an analyst at a Japanese brokerage firm tells the Financial Times. "In the end, the broader impact seems trivial."
Earlier this week, Mercedes Benz maker Daimler AG announced it has divested its entire 3.9 percent shares in Tesla, giving the company a windfall of $780 million in cash. The two global leaders in the auto industry are fast considering Tesla as a rival, with Daimler's Mercedes Benz B-Class compact car and Toyota's Lexus LS sedan directly competing with Tesla's $71,000 Model S.
Tesla stocks soared to a peak of $291 in the past year but have been on the decline since September. The company's stocks have fallen by 19 percent since then.